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Have you ever pushed a cork into a bottle of wine accidentally while opening it and wondered whether you can still drink the wine that has a cork in it? It has happened to me plenty of times, both accidentally and intentionally, when I haven’t had a corkscrew to open my wine.
It is entirely safe to drink wine with a cork in it. If a cork has been pushed into a bottle, take care when pouring the first glass or two, as the floating cork can block the flow of wine. A chopstick or something similar can be used to push the cork out of the way while pouring.
Let’s learn about how safe it is to drink wine with a cork in it as well as a way to get the cork back out from inside a bottle of wine.
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Can You Drink Wine With A Cork In It
The short answer is that you can drink wine where the cork is floating inside the bottle. Wine is stored in a way that keeps the wine in contact with the cork, so having a cork floating inside the wine bottle won’t contaminate the wine in any way.
This has happened to me more than a few times at picnics or barbecues, where I have arrived with a bottle of wine and no corkscrew.
My solution was to press the cork down into the bottle to open the wine. I always ensured that I kept the bottle vertical because pushing the cork into the bottle increases the pressure in the bottle.
I once had my wine bottle leaning over, so the wine touched the cork while I pushed the cork in. The extra pressure caused red wine to spray everywhere as the cork went into the bottle.
This never happened when I kept the bottle vertical, and there was space between the cork and the wine as I started pushing the cork in. I would still advise pushing the cork in slowly so the pressure can equalize without spraying any wine.
One tricky thing is pouring the first glass of wine from a full bottle after pushing the cork in. The floating cork tends to block the flow of wine from the bottle.
The first few times I did this, I would pour the first glass carefully, little by little, and stop pouring it every time the cork blocked the neck of the bottle.
I’d hold the bottle vertically so the cork could drop back down and then start pouring again. This was only ever a problem pouring the first glass, as after that, the cork would stay out of the way as long as I poured it carefully.
Something I did a few times was to use the thin handle of a teaspoon to push the cork out of the way while pouring the first glass of wine. If you have a chopstick handy, you can use that to push the cork out of the way as well.
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If A Cork Gets Pushed Into A Wine Bottle, Is The Wine Ruined?
Your wine will not be ruined if the cork gets pushed into the wine bottle. So, there is no need to be concerned if you are somewhere without a corkscrew to open your wine.
The wine in the bottle has been in contact with the cork all the time that it has been stored on your wine rack or in your cellar if you have been storing your wine correctly.
Being in contact with the cork during years of storage doesn’t ruin the wine, so having the wine in contact with the cork for an hour or two after pushing the cork into the bottle will have no adverse effect on the wine.
Besides the occasions when I have been somewhere like a picnic without a corkscrew and resorted to pushing the cork into the bottle, I can remember another occasion where I pushed the cork into the bottle even though I did have a corkscrew on hand.
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The wine in question was a 15-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend that had been stored correctly on its side the entire time.
When I tried to open the bottle of wine, I discovered that the outer third of the cork had become so dry and hard that the point of my corkscrew couldn’t bite at all.
I pushed the cork into the bottle and enjoyed a superb wine at its peak. I later looked at the cork and saw that even though the outer third of the cork had become hard and dry, the inner two-thirds of the cork was still perfectly fine and had kept the wine bottle sealed and safe from oxidation.
How Do You Get A Cork Out Of A Bottle That’s Pushed In?
Sometimes people who are less experienced at opening bottles of wine will press too hard on the corkscrew to get it to bite into the cork. The result is pushing the cork down into the bottle of wine instead of the corkscrew biting into the cork at all.
To get a cork out of a bottle that has been pushed in, you will need three items:
- A piece of string
- A metal spoon that has a long, narrow handle
- A corkscrew
Start with the piece of string and tie a knot near one end. Continue tying overhand knots in the string until you have bulked up the knot into a large lump of knots at the end of your piece of string.
Use the long narrow handle of the spoon to push the knotted end of the string down the inside of the bottle’s neck.
As you do so, push the string down the side of the cork floating at the base of the bottle’s neck. Keep pushing the string down until the large knot is below the cork, then remove the spoon.
Carefully pull the string that is now wedged down the side of the cork and pull the cork back up into the neck of the bottle.
You will likely need to apply quite a bit of force but do so evenly so that you don’t pull the string out of the bottle before you’ve got the cork all the way back into the neck of the bottle.
Once you have the cork back up into the neck of the bottle, you can use the corkscrew to remove the cork in the usual way.
However, take extra care not to put any pressure on the now wet cork, or you will quickly push the cork back into the bottle and have to start the whole process again. Just twist the corkscrew without pressure and wait patiently for the point to bite into the cork.
To show this process in action, here is a 4-minute video from Rosset Bespoke Butler School giving a demonstration.
TIP: A critical aspect of keeping wine for long periods is the correct temperature and humidity. Check out this complete guide on controlling humidity in the wine fridge and the most common reason your wine cooler is not cooling in this article.
What Happens If Cork Falls Into Wine?
If the whole cork falls into the wine when you try to open it, your wine will not be contaminated by the cork. Use a spoon with a long, narrow handle or a chopstick to push the cork out of the way while you pour the wine.
Alternatively, you can use the hack I explained above, where you use a piece of string to pull the cork back into the neck of the bottle before trying to open the wine the usual way with a corkscrew.
If some pieces of cork fall into the wine while you open it, it is still safe to drink, even if getting pieces of cork in your mouth might be a bit unpleasant.
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If the cork crumbles and disintegrates into the wine while opening the bottle, it might indicate a compromised cork and your wine may have been exposed to Oxygen. It will be best to taste the wine before serving it in case it is oxidized.
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Can You Drink Cork-Tainted Wine?
Cork-tainted wine is safe to drink. Unfortunately, although safe, it is not the most pleasant wine-tasting experience you will have.
Madeline Puckette, sommelier and author of the book Wine Folly: The Essential Guide To Wine (available on Amazon), says that the average wine-drinking adult will encounter 100 bottles of cork-tainted wine in their lifetime.
If this happens to you in a restaurant, send the wine back and ask for a replacement bottle. The restaurant’s sommelier or anyone with any knowledge of wine can recognize cork-tainted wine immediately from the musty smell of wet cardboard/wet newspaper/wet dog, depending on the level of contamination.
How Does A Cork Contaminate A Wine Bottle?
Corked wine is a wine that has been contaminated with TCA or 2,4,6 Trichloroanisole.
TCA is formed when tiny airborne fungi come into contact with phenolic compounds (tannins, in the case of winemaking) and chlorine (used to clean winemaking and bottling equipment) simultaneously.
If there is TCA in a winery, it will typically contaminate some of the corks as they are porous. A TCA-contaminated cork will gradually contaminate the wine that it is in contact with while the wine is stored in the cellar.
Even though TCA-contaminated wine smells and tastes unpleasant, it is not toxic at all and is safe to drink.
TIP: To learn how to store white wine after opening, read this article. To discover if wine fridges are only for storing white wine, check out this complete guide. For a complete breakdown of how to store wine long-term in 8 simple steps, read this guide.
It is entirely safe to drink a wine that has a cork in it. If the cork is pushed into the bottle, it is only the first glass of wine that will be tricky to pour because the cork is in the way. You can push the cork out of the way using a chopstick or a long narrow handle of a spoon.
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