Bad Cork Good Wine

Paul Morrone |

By Thomas Morrone CFP®, CPA

Have you ever attempted to open a bottle of wine and the cork breaks in half with the other half still in the neck of the bottle? It is so frustrating. The next step is to see if you can latch on to the remaining piece of cork with the corkscrew. Sometimes this works, but more often it is just a hopeful attempt at simply removing the other half of the cork and drink the wine as originally planned. Of course, there is the more common scenario where the broken cork isn’t going anywhere. Now what? There are a couple of options, both of which are not desirable but at least you have an opportunity to drink the wine. I was presented with this situation recently while at our friends’ home, Armen and Mary Ellen. Our hosts graciously invited Cathy and I as well as Joan and Rick for a dinner extravaganza of traditional antipasto, shrimp scampi and spaghetti with crab sauce. Everybody brought something to compliment the meal and my item was to provide the wine. So, the story begins......

I have been known to be a bit of a wine snob, so I welcomed the challenge. A passion of mine is collecting wines from around the world. I have accumulated a modest collection that is stored in a temperature-controlled room right in our kitchen. On special occasions, I very selectively choose certain wines. The selection may be a wine with a story, the last bottle or two of a special purchase made years ago or any number of different reasons. The point is, there are sections in the wine racks that the bottles are to drink anytime and then there are the sections that are for special occasions. This spaghetti night with dear friends and family could not be a better reason to go deep and pick a couple of “nice bottles”. A 2002 Tuscan blend sounded like a perfect pairing with the dinner and I had only two bottles left in the collection. It was an easy choice.

As soon as we arrived, I requested a cork screw so the wine could be opened to allow it to breathe a little. After all it was a 2002. As soon as I put the corkscrew in the cork it began to crumble like sawdust. Not a good sign. It did not break, just fell apart. I put that bottle aside and went to the backup bottle and the same thing. Armen and I had a challenge in front of us. Given how dry the cork was, I was assuming that the wine had turned to vinegar or worse. It would not be the first bottle in my life that pained me to pour down the drain in the sink. We patiently carved away at the corks in both bottles until the last pieces simply fell into the bottles. Armen read my mind and he dug out a strainer. We poured the wine through the strainer into a carafe. Sadly, the cork pieces were so small they went through the holes in the strainer. Panic. Get the coffee filters. Now we poured the “corky wine” from the carafe through the coffee filter into a coffee pot. For future reference, 17-year-old wine from Tuscany is thicker than coffee. It took some time for the wine to strain though the coffee filter. The long process built up the anticipation but both bottles filtered just fine. Pouring glasses of wine around the table from the coffee pot seemed weird but we were improvising. The wine was wonderful and was enjoyed by all. More important than anything is the cork debacle made for a great story. It was such a wonderful evening. The food was fabulous, the conversation flowing, the laughter, the stories, the memories, the people. That is what life is all about.

The wine was a little corky......but remember, the best wines are the wines that we drink with our friends.

Until the Next Tom’s Take...

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