Wine Tip: How to Open a Bottle with Wax Seal

An old-school wax seal (closure) on a bottle can be intimidating -- even for experienced wine professionals. Very few bottlers still use a wax seal and of the few that do, many have converted to faux wax seals that are actually very easy to remove. (For one type of faux wax seal, there is a tab that neatly divides the top of the seal from the rest. For another type, there is an invisible perforation that causes the top of the seal to break off neatly. Lapierre from Beaujolais and Occhipinti from Sicily, respectively, are two producers that use these types of faux wax seals.)

It's actually very easy to pull a cork from a bottle with a traditional wax seal. The only caveat is that a wax seal "calls for... a tolerance of a certain amount of mess," as Master of Wine Jancis Robinson points out. I often place an unfolded napkin under the bottle before I pull the cork in order to gather the bits and pieces of wax.

As for any cork, be sure that you insert the "worm" (the screw) of the wine key at an angle. This is the most important element to seamlessly remove any cork. Note the position of the worm above and note how I've boldly stuck it right into the wax.

Then, as with any cork, use the two levers of the wine key to pull the cork out. The worm will straighten out as you do this.

The wax will break and fall to the sides of the bottle but the cork and the motion will prevent the wax from falling into the bottle. A second napkin will come in handy to brush off any remaining bits of wax after you've removed the cork.

If some of the wax does inadvertently fall into the bottle, no problem: Just decant the bottle using a wine filter. If you don't have a proper wine filter, just use a kitchen strainer. Neither the wax nor the strainer will affect the flavor of the wine. And if you don't have a decanter, use any type of glass carafe. And if you don't have a carafe, just pour the wine directly into your glasses using the filter.


Have a question about opening wine? Please ask in the comment section below.

For tasting notes on this bottle of 2001 Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes by Leroy, click here.

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