How to Open a Older Bottle of Wine

May 20, 2019

By Winemaker Paul Steinauer

Now that you have acquired an older wine, often referred to as a library wine, you might be asking, “How do I open this without making a mess of the cork?”—or—“What’s the best way to serve this wine once opened?”

How to open old wine bottles

First, the basics—it’s natural that a cork will soften with age. It’s also natural that a wine may develop some sediment as it ages. Well fear not, with the proper tools and technique, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty.

Let’s go through the steps.

1) First, store your bottle in an upright position several days prior to opening, preferably in a cool location. Doing so will allow any suspended sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle.

2) Next, choose the cork extractor you prefer—here are my recommendations:

  • Best – The Durand is a two-pronged wine opener—also known as an “Ah-So”—but with a built-in corkscrew. This is not an inexpensive item, but if you open a lot of older wines it could be a nice addition to your cellar.
  • Good – A standard two-pronged cork puller is also known as an “Ah-So.” Gently insert the longer tip between the glass and the cork, and gently rock back and forth until it is fully inserted in the bottle. Then slowly twist—while pulling up at same time.
  • Good – A pressurized cork extractor (like Cork Pops) is a device comprised of a needle and a carbon dioxide cartridge. Center the needle in the cork and penetrate it all the way through, then press the cartridge until the cork extracts. Hint: It’s best to cover the neck of bottle with a napkin or paper towel, as sometimes a bit of wine and/or sediment can also be extracted when under pressure.
  • OK – A corkscrew with a long, grooved shaft will make extracting an older, soft cork easier than using a shorter corkscrew without the grooving. Make sure it is centered directly in the cork, then twist it well into the cork. Be sure to pull up slowly.
  • If none of these methods work for you, as a last, last resort, find a blunt instrument that is narrower that the cork. Put the bottle in a sink and then place a plastic bag (or something similar) over the bottle neck. Then slowly and carefully push the cork down until it is no longer blocking the neck of the bottle. Hint: You definitely want something covering the opening of the bottle—as the wine will have a tendency to push upwards and out as the cork is pushed down.

3) Now that you have the cork out, you are ready to serve your wine.

  • Best – Carefully and slowly pour the wine into a decanter. Once you start to see sediment, stop pouring.
  • OK – If you don’t have a decanter, line up your wine glasses on a counter. Take a glass in one hand, and carefully pour the wine with the other hand. Be sure to keep the neck of the bottle in the same position, and fill the next glass…and so on. Hint: You want to minimize turning the bottle upright as doing so will disturb the sediment that has settled into the bottom of the bottle.

4) Maybe you didn’t have time to let the bottle sit upright for a few days, or perhaps you see pieces of cork floating in the bottle. As a last, last resort, you can pour the wine through a fine screen or coffee filter to a decanter, or even a pitcher. If you don’t want to serve from that vessel, you can always rinse out the wine bottle well, and pour the now-filtered wine back into it.

5) Remember, most older wines only require decanting to ensure that the wine is clear—not to allow the wine to “open up” or “breathe.” Library wines do not need more oxygen at this point.

6) Also, I recommend you serve and drink the wine soon after opening. The older the bottle, the sooner you will want to drink it to retain as much fruit expression as possible.

Cheers!

How to open a library wine

Open That Bottle Night

February 23, 2019

If you’re a wine lover, it’s likely you have that one bottle at home – a very special wine that you always mean to open for a celebration, holiday, or dinner party—but never do.

In 2000, The Wall Street Journal ‘Tastings’ columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher created Open That Bottle Night. Now an annual event, the aim is to motivate people to finally open that bottle and and create lasting memories.

Follow along on Instagram or Twitter with #OTBN, and tell us about your special bottle. Tag @florasprings and we may share your post!

2017 Trilogy Update

July 24, 2018

One of the interesting facets of Trilogy is that at any one time we are working with two to three vintages…sometimes more. For instance, our 2015 Trilogy is the current release. While the winemaking for that vintage is complete, we are still shipping that wine out to customers on a daily basis.

2015 Trilogy Napa Valley Red Wine

Meanwhile the 2016 Trilogy is just about to be bottled. We’ve moved it out of our caves where it’s been resting for the past 12 months, and while our winemaking team puts the final tweaks on the blend, our cellar crew is moving the wine from barrel to tank to ready it for bottling. After that the cases will move to our warehouse where they’ll wait for the February 2019 release.

That leaves our 2017, the Trilogy that is still making its way through the winemaking process. It’s had a busy few months! We picked the grapes for that wine in late September and early October. After primary fermentation in our tank room, the wine was moved to another building where it underwent malolactic fermentation, a process that every red wine (and some white wines) undergo. From there, the 2017 wines were racked (moved) into barrels and placed in our barrel warehouse. Most recently, now that the 2016 vintage has been moved from the caves, the 2017 was given one more racking and then took its place as the current Trilogy in our aging caves. It will rest there until we blend and bottle it next summer.

Wine Caves Barrels

One thing to note is that during all this time all the varietals and vineyard lots for Trilogy are kept separate, so the 2017 “Trilogy” is now simply a series of components in barrel: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. We still don’t know which varietals or vineyard components will make it into the final blend, although our winemaking team is starting to form some ideas. One thing we do know is that Winemaker Paul Steinauer is really excited about the 2017 vintage. “All of the red components are showing beautifully right now, with deep color, great aroma and rich, concentrated flavour. We have a lot to work with here.” The team will get serious about blending decisions for the 2017 vintage later this year, after they’ve finished the 2018 harvest and brought in the grapes for our 2018 Trilogy!

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