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!