05-11-2017 ~ 2 Comments

How to open wine with a wax capsule

We have entered the Age of the Wax-Dipped Wine as a number of cellars have started using this method of cork covering in lieu of the more well-known metal capsule. I’ve heard some say that it’s due to the amount of energy it takes to extrude and process aluminum that is just decorative and thrown away. The same could of course be said about dipping the neck of a bottle in melted wax (that has to be produced somehow as well) to give it an authentic “handmade” feel.

In terms of appearance, I’m neither intrigued nor bothered by the wax capsule but myself and others have noted that they can be a tremendous pain to get out of the way. And remove you must do to pull the cork and get at what is really desired: the wine inside. So as I live in Priorat, where production levels are small and it seems everyone is doing this to infer “authenticity”, I’ve been encountering more and more of these. Via trial and error this has led to what I hope is some decent advice to pass along in dealing with them.

First, you need to understand what type of “wax” you’re dealing with which means analyzing your stock ahead of serving:

  • Actual Wax – Oddly enough, this is one of the worst as real wax is gummy, sticky and basically never cleans off. You can tell if it’s wax because it will smudge around like if you were to rub a candle. Thankfully, I’ve only seen one wine that was sealed as such and I feel it was a mistake.
  • Plastic Wax – This is a brittle version of the next type and it’s just about as unappealing as real wax as it flakes and goes to pieces when trying to take it off. If you can nick chips off the bottom edge of the bottle neck, you have this.
  • Lacquered Wax – Despite the fact this is not actual “wax” like #1, it’s actually the best to deal with and it seems more proper bottles are now dipped in this. It’s a lot like the Maker’s Mark “wax” in that it had a cool look but can be easily peeled off.

How to deal

With both real and plastic wax, you basically have the same option which is to jab the corkscrew through the top and pull the cork out. This always makes a mess and so, if doing proper restaurant service, you’ll need to be wiping away the messy bits. Less than ideal but I’ve yet to find a better way to deal with these. At home, I recommend you do more or less the same and be prepared to clean up after while trying not to get capsule bits in your wine.

The lacquered type works much better. As shown in the photos above, slide your knife under the top and work it around to essentially pop off a cap. Give it a wipe with the serving cloth to clean whatever may be left. Then you can put the screw in and open like normal. A big plus in this is that if you cut it evenly, you end up with a drip stop that’s better than a metal capsule cut below the second knuckle.

Ultimately I hope this helps out somehow for both sommelier as well as people at home who find themselves confronted with a bottle sealed as such. I seriously doubt they’re going to go away so be prepared!


Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014 95
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
95 3 Stars

Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015 94
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
94 3 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016 93
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
93 2 Stars

AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012 93
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
93 2 Stars

Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015 93
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
93 2 Stars

Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015 93
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
93 2 Stars

Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014 93
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
93+ 3 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Rouge 2015 92
Medium ruby. Fresh red cherry, raspberry, and young strawberry, lifted and breathy, saline tinge along with light stoniness and rosemary and garrigue. Fresh red fruit on the palate, medium acidity but still light on the palate, fresh, and while the alcohol sticks out a little, holds and excellent, long finish.
Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre · 14.5% · 20EUR
92 2 Stars

Domaine Fontanel - Prieuré 2014 92
Dense ruby with brick flecks. Crisp red fruits, lifted by a waft of volatility making for a light nose with a spicy licorice and leather component. Crisp and lively with red cherry fruit in the mouth and a nudge over medium acidity. Nice, lingering finish.
50% Syrah 25% Grenache 25% Mourvèdre · 14.5%
92 2 Stars

Cave Abbé Rous - Cornet & Cie Blanc 2016 92
Peach, orange peel & blossom, honey, dried apricot, and a hint of green apple. Very nicely balance in the mouth, green apple notes more prevalent, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish. Fresh, lively, very pleasing wine to drink.
60% Grenache Gris 25% Grenache Blanc 5% Marsanne 5% Roussanne 5% Vermentino · 14.5%
92 2 Stars