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Apr 16, 2008 11:58 AM

Top or Bottom (of foil)

About a month ago there was a post about proper wine foil cutting. I believe I have heard at one point or another that in the past it was appropriate to cut the top lip on a red, and the bottom lip on a white...maybe this was vice versa. Was this once the case? Is it still, somewhere? Why was it so? Why did it change?
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  1. I do a lot of reading on wine and I don't think I've ever seen anything to suggest that there is a difference in where you cut the foil on white or red. I cut the foil as far down the top inch of the bottle as I can (a foil cutter does it nicely). If I don't have a foil cutter handy I will cut at the bottom of the "lip" (the inch or so protusion at the top of the bottle).

    I've seen discussions about whether or not is it appropropriate to remove the entire foil capsule and I side with those who say "no". Leaving all but the top portion maintains the visual effect of the full bottle design, of which the foil is often a part. It may sound silly, but wineries do put thought into the overall look of the bottle package.

    1. Top lip ...? bottom lip ...? I'm confused.

      1 Reply
      1. re: RicRios

        I just made a wild guess that the top and bottom 'lips' were the upper and lower edges of the wider part of the neck, just below the top of the bottle. But here's a portion from something called DiWine Taste that I Googled my way to. I have no idea how authentic it is but it makes sense.

        "The first operation to be accomplished is to cut the foil from the neck of the bottle. Foil will always be cut under the lower edge of the ring found near the opening of the bottle, anyway, it will never be cut on the upper edge. The reason why this operation must be done this way is mainly a matter of hygienics. Old bottles kept for a very long time in cellar, could have some mold developed between the foil and the neck as well as on the outside of the cork. This possible mold must be wiped out and cleaned by using a napkin: by cutting the foil under the edge of the rim allows to uncover a larger part of the neck, therefore it will allow to clean the neck better."


      2. >>> I believe I have heard at one point or another that in the past it was appropriate to cut the top lip on a red, and the bottom lip on a white...maybe this was vice versa. Was this once the case? Is it still, somewhere? Why was it so? Why did it change? <<<

        After 35 years in the wine trade, I have to say that I have NEVER heard of this . . . .

        In the "old" days, the foil was made out of lead. Lead is poisonous. It was put on the bottles (as opposed to sealing wax or some other form of covering) in order to keep rats in the cellar from eating the cork and, thus, ruining the wine.

        But then someone figured out that -- Hey! Lead is poisonous! (D'oh!) And the lead foil was abolished (mid-1970s) in favor of plastic, tin alloy, or other metal . . . let alone sealing wax, beeswax, screwcaps, etc., etc., etc., etc. . . . .

        Personally I think it *looks* best when the foil is cut against the upper edge of the lip. That said, just to play it safe, I always cut my foil against the LOWER edge and the nwipe the neck with a towel before extracting the cork.


        P.S. Red . . . white . . . it doesn't matter.

        1. Thank you for the replies. Upon inspection of two example bottles in the house right now I have noticed that my girlfriend's Gewürztraminer has a larger widening at the top of the bottle. This is what I am perhaps inaccurately calling the "lip." Similarly, the very top of my Pinot Noir not only has the requisite widening, but then again another tightening, if you will, of the circumference. I'm sorry I don't have a better way to describe this. I simply wish to clarify what I mean by the word lip.
          I do not doubt that my information may have been incorrect, misguided, or even wholly fabricated. I think it was part of the training I received in New Orleans as a fine dining waiter, and have consequently wondered every time I present a bottle to a customer, or simply open one for myself, whether I was following proper wine etiquette to the utmost.
          Once again, thank you for the quick and helpful responses!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Strudelstein

            The wine capsule is a holdover from days gone by. It was started to keep the butler or other servants from stealing the good stuff and replacing it with plonk.

            Some people say it's not right to remove the entire capsule. My butler opens them both ways. :-)

            1. re: Strawman

              My man servant does not care as long as the twist top doesn't slice his fingers. I remove the foil if possible as winiacs I have served ask for it to come off. It is mostly a cosmetic application and I think adds the risk of contamination back into the bottle, decanter or in the bucket if left on...

              1. re: jspear

                I recently had to have Smythe flogged for cutting too much of the foil capsule from my 2007 Sutter Home White Zinfandel. Good help is so hard to find.

          2. I have a system. When I use the little foil cutting tool with the wheel blades, which I really like, it cuts cleanly around the top of the lip. When I use the knife on my waiter’s friend, I cut around the bottom of the lip because I believe it’s safer and therefore, helps me avoid spilling my blood on the bottle.

            1 Reply
            1. re: BN1

              The best of the foil cutters seem to cut about half way down the "lip" as it's been referred to here. I don't think it matters all that much so long as the foil is cut far enough down to get a clean edge that doesn't interfere with pouring. Sometimes I see foils cut right at the top of the lip and that can make pouring sloppy.

              I also tend to cut at the bottom of the lip when I use the knife. It seem to help nake clean cut all the way around and also gives some leverage for getting the foil to come off.