Cork, Hard to Port — And How to Fix It

Two weeks ago, I acquired a tasty $80 bottle of port — created in 1984, bottled in 1988, and chilling ever since — and I figured it would be a lovely way to treat myself after having worked very hard for a contract client.

So, I got home, pulled out my decanter, and set to work removing the cork.

Much to my regret, the cork was soft; the top half came out with the corkscrew and I had to work hard to get the bottom half out without contaminating the sweet, delicious liquid within the bottle. Alas, though — the problem wasn’t with my removal technique. The problem was that the cork itself had long since started to disintegrate.

It didn’t occur to me that maybe bits of cork entered into the bottle until, as it was 80 percent decanted, I noticed a sludge at the bottom of the bottle. You guessed it: Bits of cork had dislodged over the years and formed a muck. Some of which, but not all, made its way into my decanter.

As a matter of principle, I did need to at least taste this port. So, I grabbed a coffee filter and a snifter and poured from the decanter into the snifter by means of the filter. It was a long and messy process; coffee filters work when there’s pressure from liquid on one side to force it through to the other side. When you’re down to the last half-ounce, it drips. Like the end of a coffee brewing cycle.

You can see from the photo that I strained out quite a bit of particulate. My snifter glass wasn’t large — maybe 4 oz. — so what you see is what had clouded the bottle. I lifted my strained glass to the sun and noticed nothing floating in the port, so clearly my effort worked.

Still, it was depressing. So I grabbed a cigar and a piece of dark chocolate and retreated to the back porch to celebrate a bittersweet victory against The Cork That Couldn’t.

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