April 14, 2009

A tip for pulling out those old Vintage Port corks

Before 1987 all our standard Vintage Port bottles had those bulbous necks. Although they look quaint, they are a disaster!

When the compressed corks were inserted into these bottles they flaired out inside the neck. On being laid down the Port has infiltrated into the flaired lower part of the cork almost up to the lip of the bottle. Infact the only part of the cork that has been acting as a seal is the top 1cm of cork just below the lip.

The result is that not only is there often seapage in these bottles but also the saturated lower 4cms of cork either breaks-off or disintegrates when you try and pull it out with the corkscrew. This turns what is normally a quick and simple job of decanting into a stressful exercise of extracting lots of tiny particles of cork floating in the Vintage Port from out of the decanter!

Although I am sure that the art of breaking the neck of the bottle by using a pair of red-hot tongs would resolve this problem, I don't have the patience nor often a burning fireplace to heat the tongs.

I have found that the best solution is to use an old fashioned corkscrew with a long thread. By inserting this corkscrew right through the bottom of the cork there is a very good chance that if pulled out vertically, without leverage, the cork will come out whole or just about. This is not advisable to those of you who suffer from bad backs.

I am pleased to say that since 1987 the standard Vintage Port bottles now come with cylindrical necks where not only do the corks create a good seal but where there is also very little risk of the cork breaking-up on being extracted.


  1. Dear Johnny,
    it is absolutely great to find you here in blogosphere ;-). I will make a link on my blog asap. I will be thrilled to keep following news on our favourite port house and hope you have great fun in writing the blogs.
    Nico and I have enjoyed this evening a glass of the 10 year old tawny, while the crusted 2002 and the vintage 1985 lie waiting for that special opportunity.
    Kindest regards from a sunny Utrecht,
    Mariëlla Beukers

  2. Mariella,
    It is good to hear from you and thank you for following my blog. I am still a bit of a beginner at this blogging game but I look forward to seeing how things develop!
    I am delighted to hear that you and Nico are enjoying our 10 year old tawny.It is also my regular evening tipple and I like to drink it quite cold as I find it helps to focus the flavour.I keep a bottle on the go in the fridge!
    All the best wishes,