Many people experience some anxiety over removing corks from wine bottles because they don't want to make any mistakes that damage the wine or make them look foolish. A common problem when removing corks is probably pieces of cork falling into the wine — either a few tiny pieces or even a large section of cork. Most people worry too much about not looking sophisticated with wine and they shouldn't worry a lot about getting cork in wine. Everyone does it and it's not hard to fix.
Why Does Cork Get In Wine?
There are two ways that cork can get into your wine, one as a consequence of your actions and one that may have nothing to do with you. Taking the second case first, cork can get into wine when it dries out and, becoming brittle, breaks into pieces in the bottle. Cork dries out when the wine bottle hasn't been stored properly: in sufficiently humid conditions and on its side. It's unusual for cork to dry out to the point that it dries out even inside the bottle, but it can happen.
Far more common is that cork gets into the wine when you are removing the cork from the bottle. Once again, though, a dried out cork is often the cause here because a dry cork is far more likely to split, crack, and break into tiny pieces. No matter how careful you are when removing a cork from the wine bottle, it's still very easy to break the outer edge along the sides or even the bottom, if the cork is short. The more practice you have the less often this will occur, but it will still happen occasionally.
It even sometimes happens that a very dry cork will break in half: the top half comes out of the bottle with your corkscrew and the bottom half drops down into the bottle. In some ways this is worse than tiny pieces of wine — you won't be pouring the pieces into everyone's glass, but the large piece of cork can drop into the neck and prevent the wine from coming out at all.
Why You Don't Want Cork in Wine
If there is any mold on the cork, dropping that moldy cork into the wine will foul it, making it undrinkable. This is why it's important to check the outside of the cork for mold before removing it from the bottle. If you do find mold on the cork, use a knife to cut it all away and then use the corkscrew to remove the cork from wine bottle.
If the cork is merely dry, it shouldn't have much if any effect on the wine's flavor. However, you really don’t want to drink wine with cork in it and it certainly looks bad to pour wine for your guests when tiny pieces of cork pour out as well. All in all, it's a good idea to remove as much cork as possible before serving the wine.
How to Remove Cork from Wine
If there is just a little bit of cork in your bottle of wine, then you may be able to get rid of it all with first glass you pour — just pour carefully and take that first glass yourself. If you want, you can discretely remove that cork from your wine glass with a spoon.
If there is a lot of pieces of cork in the bottle of wine, you will need to decant your wine in order to be sure you get it all out. A piece of cheese cloth or even a coffee filter across the top of the decanter will remove the cork as you pour out the wine. Then you can serve your wine in a nice decanter.
If there is a large hunk of cork in the bottle of wine, you probably won't be able to remove that before serving. You have two options in this situation: you can use a long, thin stick (like a chopstick) to hold the cork to the side as you pour or you can decant the wine first then serve it with a decanter. The latter option is more graceful and probably the best option when serving guests.