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Hafner Vineyard

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How to Open an Older Bottle of Wine

One of the most consistent questions patrons ask is, “What is the best way to open an older bottle of wine?”

The question is prompted by concerns about an older cork and the possibility of it breaking or disintegrating during extraction. This can happen regardless of how well the wine has been stored or the quality of the cork. It is helpful to remember that cork is essentially tree bark, a natural product and imperfect by definition. As it ages, it can become more fragile or brittle.
Broken CorksWe recommend, and use ourselves, an “Ah-So” or “Butler’s Friend” which is a double prong wine opener. As usual, the wise and well-spoken Jancis Robinson, a renowned English wine writer, also suggests using them. Click here to read Ms. Robinson’s advice. Here are the steps in photos.

Step 1: Insert the prongs on either side of the cork. 
Open with Ah So - Step 1Step 2: Gently wiggle the prongs down either side of the cork.
Open with Ah So - Step 2
Step 3: Slowly pull the cork out while gently turning the Ah So. That helps to manuever the cork.
Open with Ah So - Step 3
Step 4: Enjoy!
Open with Ah So - Step 4

We know how frustrating it can be when a cork breaks, especially in the company of friends. If we are opening an older bottle and anticipate potential challenges, we open the bottle just before guests arrive. When a cork breaks, there can be cork particles in the bottle. If it is minimal, we try not to decant an older wine. If there are too many particles, we will slowly decant the wine through a strainer at the last minute. (Learn more about when to decant a wine here.)
Scott Hafner
The first few times using an “Ah-So” can be intimidating, so in this circumstance we refer back to the old adage, “Practice makes perfect.” Perhaps this is a great excuse for you to open a Library vintage… or two.