Ask Wine Wizard

A Corker Conundrum

TroubleShooting

Dale Ellis — Las Cruces, New Mexico asks,
Q

I have a Portuguese floor corker that has started to break off small pieces of cork that will end up in my bottled wine. This is an older model of the corker. I am wondering if there is a way to adjust the corker to stop the shredding of the cork, or am I doing something wrong in prepping the corks. I normally spray the corks with either vodka or sulfite solution to make sure they are sanitized.

A
I hope I’m assuming correctly, but I’m imagining that you’ve got the smaller, lighter-weight red metal corker with adjustable spring-loaded bottle base and plastic jaws, sometimes called a “Portuguese” corker. These are decent corkers for a home winemaker with not much volume to bottle, but they can have their issues. Before I get into that, let’s talk about your corks. Possible issues you may be having with the corks: Be sure your corks are fresh, and not old and dried out. Yes, corks are essentially plugs of dried-out tree bark but you don’t want them to be too dry. Be sure that they are new from a cork supplier (if you buy them in large quantities) and if purchased from a winemaking or brewing supply shop, that they are from a shop with enough turnover to keep fresh corks on hand. Ask the shop folks how long ago they opened the bag of corks — the cork companies typically sell them in sealed bags of 1,000 or 2,000 — and it’s important they sealed the bag up right away after
Response by Alison Crowe.