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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I saw that the 2014 Booker Oublié (Wine Spectator's No. 10 Wine of 2017) was served at the New York Wine Experience. How did the sommeliers at the Wine Experience deal with the wax capsule on those bottles?
—Bill, Los Angeles
I asked David Gordon, the wine director for Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Tribeca Grill and who headed the team of all-star somms that opened and screened all the bottles served at the Wine Experience seminars. "The corkscrew goes directly into the top of the wax," Gordon says. "The cork will come out cleanly—no need to try to take off the wax before putting in the corkscrew."
I also checked in with Booker owner Eric Jensen, and he agreed. He added that the shiny wax tends to be more crumbly and trickier to deal with, and you’re more likely to get wax in your wineglass with the crumbly stuff. “When [the wax is] soft and muted in color (indicating it's not paraffin-based, which can cause more chipping)," he says, "you just aim straight down the middle and pull out [the cork] as normal.”
Another strategy is to treat it like a regular foil capsule: Just slice and chip away the wax from the top of the bottle. It’s messier, but I recommend doing this with older wines that might have fragile corks.
With some wax capsules, on wines that you are not concerned about stirring up any sediment, you can avoid the mess by melting the capsule off in a cup of very hot water, but take care to dip only the capsule in so as to avoid heating up the wine. You can wipe the melted wax clean with a paper towel, but don't burn yourself! Yet another option, a tip I got from Howell Mountain's Dunn family, is to rotate the wax capsule over a lit candle or other open flame to soften it.
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