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Most Dangerous Ways to Open a Wine Bottle

Most Dangerous Ways to Open a Wine Bottle

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You know, just some ideas if you don't have a corkscrew handy but you do have a samurai sword

Anyone who walks around town with a wine bottle opener on hand at all times pretty much wins at life, but of course there are always going to be moments when you have a bottle of vino, but no way to open it.

On the bright side, there are oftentimes multiple sharp objects you can use to get to that wine, and when desperation sinks in, you might just try that route. So for your reference, here the most dangerous ways to open a bottle of wine.

Have a golf club? A chainsaw (or, victory saw)? A samurai sword? All of these can somewhat be used to open a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, plenty of wine could be lost, especially if you do it wrong, and since these are really dangerous tools, we don't recommend doing it at home. Just leave it to the pro below in a crop top and cut-off shorts (and a solid beard).

How to make elderflower champagne

I hate to mess with so venerable a format as that of "Desert Island Discs" but I think that, along with the luxury and the book, it would be rather nice to take a favourite plant. Like everyone else I keep my list of eight records permanently up to date just in case I get asked (there's probably more chance this way) and if I were allowed a plant, I'd take the elder. The bright creamy sprays that adorn every roadside evoke the English summer like nothing else and their smell is a heady cocktail of passion and innocence.

It is fitting that I write this on 1 June. Despite the very early appearance of this year's blossoms I always consider the first day of summer to be the start of the season. The blossoms normally continue until the middle of July, gradually becoming harder to find as they transform themselves into that other hedgerow treat – the elderberry.

The elder is a roadside tree rather than a denizen of the hedgerow. Farmers will often grub out an elder from the hedge as its brittle stem and lack of spines make it a poor choice for stock-proofing. However the elder is also an opportunist and will colonize any disturbed corner of ground, both out of town and in. Elderflowers are for everybody. Yet they still seem to be a seriously under-used resource. Why the supermarkets do not sell elderflower sorbet, elderflower yoghurt or elderflower Chewits I cannot understand.

Sparkling elderflower wine however (or "elderflower champagne" if you do not mind invoking the wrath of our neighbours) has rightly become fashionable and is readily available commercially – the one supplied by my good friends at Polgoon near Penzance is particularly excellent - but there is nothing quite like making your own. Now urban and suburban elder trees are fought over by jealous homebrewers and the results served at many a summer barbecue.

This is what you're looking for - elderflowers. Photograph: John Wright

The elder is a very easy plant to identify with a little care. I have known people collect blossoms from the wayfaring tree, rowan and even hogweed by mistake, but that is just carelessness. Take a look at the photograph here if you are unsure, but if it smells of elderflowers then that is what it is.

Choose those that have fully opened and still have cream coloured florets and pick on a sunny morning if possible. They break away easily from the fork between two leaves and you can collect a huge number in just a few minutes. Elderflowers do not thrive in captivity so get to work as soon as you arrive home. This recipe, you will be pleased to hear, is fairly safe, but it does need an extra bit of "kit" – a hydrometer.

20 elderflower heads (This is more than in most recipes, so reduce if you find elderflowers a little overpowering)
900g sugar
150ml white grape juice concentrate
3 lemons, washed
Champagne yeast (follow the instructions on the packet)
Yeast nutrient (follow the instructions on the packet)
4.5 litres of boiled water cooled to room temperature

Elderflowers removed from their stalks. Photograph: John Wright

You only need the florets themselves (too much stalk can add an unwanted bitterness to the brew). Remove them with a fork. "Forking off" as we call it.

Put them in a sterilised bucket and thoroughly mix in the sugar. Leave for about three hours to extract the flavour. Add the water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the grape concentrate, yeast and yeast nutrient. Halve and squeeze the lemons, then throw in the peel as well. Stir.

Cover the bucket and leave for up to a week, stirring occasionally for the first three or four days. Siphon into a sterilised demi-john and add a bubble-trap. The liquor will still be sweet and has quite a bit of fermenting to go. The bubbles in the trap will appear at about one per second.

A hydrometer. Photograph: John Wright

This will slow down after one or two weeks and this is the time to test your brew with your "hydrometer". It measures the specific gravity of the liquor, which in turn gives a good indication of the amount of sugar remaining. Remove the bubble-trap and carefully drop in a sterilised hydrometer. It should read "1010". If not, then replace the trap and leave your brew a bit longer.

Once the magic number has been achieved, siphon off into champagne-style bottles, fit new corks (plastic "corks" are the easiest) and a little wire cage to prevent accidents.

Sparkling elderflower wine has been the source of much joy but also much pain. It suffers more than most wines from the several calamities that can befall the wine-maker. Chief among these, certainly the most dangerous, is exploding bottles. This is caused by bottling before the speed of fermentation has slowed to a sufficiently sedate pace. There are many colourful reports of people's experiences in this area, my favourite being a tale of a shed in which all but two bottles had detonated messily. Fearful of approaching too closely, the hapless brewer "took them out" with an air rifle from a safe distance.

If you can't be bothered with this level of authenticity just use those fizzy drinks bottles that are shaped like torpedoes. Glass, swing-top lemonade bottles are not really man enough for the job.

Leave for several weeks to allow the fermentation to add fizz to the wine. A sediment will form at the bottom of the bottles. This is normal and commercial producers of sparkling wines go to great and complex lengths to remove it. At home it is easiest to cool the bottle in the fridge then decant carefully into a chilled jug just before serving.

One Major Danger of Drinking Wine You Didn't Know, According to Science

It's not uncommon to feel thirsty after you drink a glass of vino or to get a headache. But as it turns out, due to specific ingredients in wine, some people can develop an intolerance to the popular alcoholic beverage, which in turn may lead to some pretty uncomfortable and even dangerous side effects. In fact, for some people with a history of asthma (and even for some who don't have asthma), drinking even a glass or two of wine can have the power to trigger a serious asthma attack.

How does one develop an intolerance to wine, you ask? As it turns out, a wine allergy isn't all that different from other food allergies some people have to foods such as nuts and fish. (Related: People Who Should Never Drink Wine, According to an Expert.)

The most common causes of a wine allergy are sulfites, glycoproteins, and a simple grape allergy. For asthmatics, histamines—which are produced from bacteria and yeast when alcohol ferments and are especially prevalent in red wine—can also spell trouble.

Sulfites occur naturally in wine as the yeast metabolizes in the fermentation process. They can also be added to wine as a preservative, often to keep it fresh and prevent it from morphing into an expensive bottle of vinegar.

White wine typically contains more sulfites than red wine, as they are needed to protect the wine's delicate flavor and color, and sweet wines, which boast a higher sugar content, contain more sulfites in an effort to prevent the remaining sugar from starting a secondary fermentation.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that every one out of 100 individuals has a sensitivity to sulfites, and five to 10% of those with asthma have severe sulfite sensitivity.

What's more? A study conducted by researchers at the Nagasaki University School of Medicine in Japan found that alcohol-induced asthma is more prevalent in Asian populations and can even occur in people who don't have a history of previous asthma attacks. Asians are also more likely to develop flushed skin after drinking alcohol, which scientists have attributed to a high frequency of a genetically determined decreased activity of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) that metabolizes acetaldehyde, the metabolite of alcohol.

Still, it's important to remember that not everyone with asthma experiences the onset or worsening of an attack when drinking wine. In one study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, only about 33% of participants said alcohol was associated with an asthmatic event at least two times.

Yet even for those who don't have a more serious reaction to sulfites, such as an asthma attack, the chemicals can still be a nuisance and make drinking even the occasional glass of wine. A more common allergic reaction to sulfites typically involves sneezing, headaches, and hives.

If you have a serious case of asthma or suspect you might be otherwise allergic to sulfites, look for the words "sulfite-free" on your wine labels. And for more on the topic, check out What Happens to Your Body When You Drink a Bottle of Wine.

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What's the Difference Between Cooking Wine and Regular Wine?

Our top tips for selecting, cooking with and drinking wine — they're more straightforward than you might guess.

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Photo by: Adrian Assalve ©Adrian Assalve

Adrian Assalve, Adrian Assalve

The main difference between cooking wine and wine that you drink is quality. But just as a fine wine has subtle nuances, so too does the definition of cooking wine. Here's a primer and a few tips to help you compare, well, grapes to grapes, and make the most out of cooking with wine (hint: save yourself a chef's glass).

Avoid the stuff labeled "cooking wine"

When it comes to cooking with wine, avoid bottles labeled "cooking wine." Cooking wine isn't anything you'd want to cook with — it's loaded with preservatives, sweeteners and salt, which can make your final dish taste overly sweet, salty or even metallic.

Abide by this rule of thumb: Cook only with wine that you'd drink. Your first tipoff that bottles labeled "cooking wine" aren't fit to drink is that they're usually shelved near the vinegars and salad dressings in your local grocery store. Your best bet is to select a bottle from the wine section of your grocery store, or better yet, your local wine shop.

"The quality of cooking wine is so low … you have to remember that you're putting that in your body and in your dishes, so it's well worth it to spend the extra money to get a wine that'll really represent the dish," says Maria Rust, the wine director and founder of Somm Time Wine Bar in New York City. "If you really want to cook well, it's worth [making] a trip to the liquor store and getting a proper wine from people who do proper winemaking."

Cooking with a good wine can really bring the wow factor to a dish, but you don't need to break the bank. Since many of wine's subtle characteristics burn off when cooked, it doesn't make sense to splurge on a fancy bottle for that batch of boeuf bourguignon.

For cooking, look for a wine that's moderately priced. While wine is an ingredient like any other and you should buy the best you can afford, rest assured that even chefs aren't cooking with $40 bottles.

"There's so much good wine out there for $10 to $15," Rust says. "Find something decent — a nice Sangiovese from Tuscany that retails for $10 to $12, or a nice clean, crisp white wine like Pinot Grigio or even a Muscadet. You want flavor but nothing too huge."

Understand what wine brings to the dish

The main thing wine provides in cooking is acidity, which helps break down tougher cuts of meat when used in a marinade or keeps them tender in longer-duration cooking methods like braising. Wine's acidity also helps more delicate ingredients stay tender and moist in quicker-cooking recipes, such as poached vegetables or steamed fish.

As wine cooks, its flavor becomes concentrated, so it also lends savoriness or sweetness to a dish. Generally, dry red and white wines are recommended for savory dishes. Whether cooking with red or white wine, avoid oaky wines (like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay), as these become bitter when cooked.

Save sweet wines, such as Sauternes, Moscato or sweet Riesling, for dessert recipes such as poached pears.

Get more bang for your buck

Cooking with the same wine you're going to serve with the meal is a way to get more bang for your buck (provided that the recipe doesn't call for the whole bottle), which is particularly nice if you're shelling out closer to $15 a bottle.

Rust follows this philosophy for some of the wine-based dishes on Somm Time's small-plates menu. The Chianti used to bolster meatballs in a rich tomato sauce is also a fine match for sipping, as its acidity cuts nicely through the dish's richness. When Rust makes risotto at home, she'll often use something from her list, like a Muscadet or Pinot Grigio. (But if she's cooking risotto the traditional way, she'll spend a little more on a bottle of Amarone.)

After you open a bottle, Rust recommends storing leftover wine in the fridge and either drinking or cooking with it within in four days. Otherwise, it'll oxidize (or go bad).

"Oxidization goes into the dish as well, so you can get this musty, nutty, almost sherry quality, too," she explains. In other words, if the wine goes bad, it will impart those undesirable flavors into the dish, too. If you ask us, that's another good reason to pour yourself a chef's glass or serve the wine with dinner.

Fortify your repertoire: oxidized and fortified wines

Some wines, most notably sherry, are oxidized on purpose, to bring nutty, complex flavors into them. A dry sherry can lend a pleasing nuttiness to savory dishes, for example — but again, the key is to pick something that you'd actually want to drink. The wine should also be one that has been intentionally oxidized by the winemaker (rather than oxidizing a bottle of red and letting it go bad in your fridge to bring nuttiness to a dish).

Fortified wines are another category that can be useful in cooking. As Harold McGee explains in his book On Food and Cooking, fortified wines are so named because the strength of the base wine is bolstered by the addition of distilled spirits to bring the alcohol level to 18 to 20%. This is a level that prevents spoilage, so winemakers can expose these wines to air for months or years to derive more desirable flavor profiles from oxidization. They also keep for much longer, up to a month or even two in some cases, as long as they're refrigerated.

Two types of fortified wines most commonly called for in recipes are Madeira and Marsala. They're also a common source of confusion, because you'll often notice bottles of "cooking Madeira wine" and "cooking Marsala wine" in the grocery store.

"Many people have never heard of Madeira or the tiny group of islands from which it hails," says Michael Corcoran, the sommelier at Peppervine, a Charlotte, North Carolina, restaurant lauded for its wine service. "These wines are often not cheap and can be tricky to find in some markets. Don't use cooking Madeira! It's just gross."

Another thing Corcoran says you should consider when buying Madeira is the sweetness level: Sercial is dry, Verdelho is off-dry, Bual is sweet, and Malmsey is very sweet. "When cooking with Madeira, the wine will reduce and get even sweeter, so be careful when choosing your bottle," he advises. "Unless you are making a sweet demi-glaze, you'll likely want a Sercial or Verdelho — plus they are less expensive."

The same goes for Marsala, a fortified Italian wine that hails from Sicily, which is available either dry or sweet. Using sweet Marsala lends a rich, nutty, almost caramelized flavor to mushroom sauces in dishes like chicken Marsala. Sweet Marsala can also be used in desserts, as with zabaglione, a classic custard sauce that's a fine match for fresh berries. Employ dry Marsala to deglaze a pan of roasted shellfish or meatier fish to add a savory depth to the sauce.

Another fortified wine to keep on hand is Port, which enriches sweet sauces that pair nicely with chocolate desserts or can be drizzled over cheese — and then sipped with the same dessert or cheese.

Drink Up! The Most Clever Ways to Reuse Empty Wine Bottles

Observe a bottle and imagine the possibilities: a vase for flowers, a set of upcycled tableware, or a terrarium that sprouts tiny, but hardy, plants under glass. Rarely do everyday objects inspire such a wealth of ideas. But ordinary glass bottles continue to enchant&mdashand thanks to decades of accumulated detritus, continue to be collectible.

Experts may prize age and provenance, but the true value of these humble vessels is their unadulterated beauty: Emptied and stripped of their labels, and most often long-separated from their stoppers and caps, bottles are pure instances of color and form, and are nearly as multihued and variously shaped as history itself. Fortunately, because the shape of a bottle is bound to its function, with neck length and height dictated by the contents, standardized production has never bred conformity.

Flea markets, thrift stores, and estate sales are all great sources for bottles. Which colors, shapes, and sizes would you collect? Bottles in a variety of greens are common, because the raw materials needed to make the color have historically been affordable and widely available. But they come in rich yellow, blue, and purple hues all the same. A bottle's age can be determined, in part, by its mouth and bottom. For instance, the "snap top" (so named because the top was broken off the blowpipe after the bottle was made) and pyramidal bottom of an amber flask date it to the early 1800s. Brown vessels are often used for beer and ale because the coloring protects the bottle's contents from spoiling. Reconsider this function for preserving oils, salad dressings, or soaps in your kitchen. Clear bottles, with a speedy wash and dry, will display family photographs or the flicker of a candle beautifully. Once you open the bottle, it will only last so long&mdashso why not prolong its use in your home?

The Best Wine Openers of 2021, According to Experts and Reviewers

You can't enjoy a good bottle of wine without a trusty wine opener. Some wine openers break after just a couple uses, some require too much strength, and others simply take up too much space. That's why we asked the experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute for their personal recommendations and favorites.

When selecting the best wine opener for you, it's important to consider what you value most in the little kitchen gadget. It might sound silly to put any thought into it, but it's helpful in the long run since you'll end up keeping it for a while. Here are a few examples of popular wine opener styles to help:

  • Winged corkscrew: Just as its name hints, this corkscrews has two arms or "wings" that shoot up during cork removal. These classic wine openers are popular for their small profile and general reliability. "I like its classic style and the fact that it works," says Nicole Papantoniou, senior testing editor and producer of the Kitchen Appliances Lab.
  • Electric wine opener: These days, most electric wine openers come cordless with a charging stand, and promise the ability to open several bottles of wine on a single charge. "These are great for people with limited mobility," says Papantoniou.
  • Waiter's corkscrew: This style is compact in size and popular for on-the-go. "The two joints are what's key to the waiter's corkscrew &mdash this allows for better leverage," says food editor Catherine Lo. "While I have some higher-tech wine openers, I always turn back to my waiter's corkscrew since it's durable and easy to stash in a tote bag," adds Samantha MacAvoy, editorial assistant at the Test Kitchen.
  • Lever corkscrew: Simply push down and pull up with this wine opener. It requires a bit of arm strength, but the two-motion mechanism is attractive to those who want a seamless experience.

See below for the best wine openers, according to Good Housekeeping editors and experts, plus a few top-rated picks from online reviews so you can enjoy your bottle of rosé in peace.

This oldie-but-goodie is well loved by reviewers, many saying it's designed with a "high-end atmosphere" when it only costs $12. What really makes it stand out are the rubber grips that make for a more comfortable opening process. "With a corkscrew like this one, I don't have to compromise ease of use or performance," Papantoniou says.

Made of all stainless steel, this corkscrew is no-frills and easy to clean. "I like something that takes up the least space in my drawer," says Lynn Redmile, Testing and Product Review Analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, "and that's why I've been using my winged opener for more than a decade." This corkscrew style has a bottle opener at the end, making it useful for cracking open a beer or soda too.

"The Ah-So style really works well for crumbly, problem corks," says Lo. How it works: Stick one prong on either end of the cork, wedge the wine opener down into the bottle until it encapsulates the entire cork, and twist upwards until the cork is out. You can even use the same process to cork the wine bottle.

A few of our experts agreed that they can count on their trusty Pulltap corkscrew, and online reviewers say "the design facilitates even the most difficult cork extractions." The corkscrew is made of sturdy steel, but it folds up to take up less space in your kitchen drawer.

Rabbit is one of the most-sought after wine openers on the internet, probably because of its professional design and claim to eject a cork out in just three seconds flat. Even our experts agree that the tool is easy to use, but some complain that it can be challenging to store away.

The brand claims that this electric wine opener can open up to 30 bottles on a single charge. It's cordless but its base can also be plugged in all the time, making it ready for use whenever you need. Reviewers like that the handle is slim and comfortable to grip.

If you need something that requires little to no effort, Carolyn Forte, director of the Cleaning Lab, recommends this corkscrew. "It's my absolute favorite and it hasn't failed me yet," she says. To use, simply turn the corkscrew in one direction until the cork pops out. Reviewers add that it's a great choice for those who deal with arthritis or might not be as strong.

The timeless, sleek design makes this Le Creuset pick popular among reviewers. It's basically the more modern version of the traditional twist corkscrew. The nearly 5-inch spiral worm is said to tackle corks of any size.

GH Institute director Laurie Jennings prefers the Languiole corkscrew style because she finds that the longer spiral worm allows for more control. "This method requires a little more muscle, but it's less likely to harm the cork if you want to re-bottle," she says. It also boasts a lavish design, so it's a corkscrew you won't want to lose.

  • Requires a little more arm strength
  • If screw is placed incorrectly, it's easy to break the cork

This lever corkscrew removes corks with two motions: Push down to pierce the cork and pull up to release it. "It's extremely easy to use and no hassle," says Stefani Sassos, GH's Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. It also comes with a removable foil cutter that stores right onto the corkscrew itself.

Nearly 1,000 Amazon reviewers gave this wine opener a perfect star rating plus it's a top-searched wine opener online. According to the brand, it can open any wine bottle in a matter of three seconds. Reviewers say the wine opener is durable and has a "solid feel" that feels like it would last a while.

How will I know if a wine is bad?

When you’re trying to determine if your half-full bottle of wine can go another round, keep these senses in mind: Look, smell, and then taste.

If you pour a glass of red wine and notice its vibrant ruby red is now a tawny brown, the wine is likely fully oxidized. It might be not worth drinking.

But give it a smell. Do you smell sharp notes of vinegar? It may have already turned.

Lastly, taste it. You’ll know immediately if you can drink the wine or if it’s a lost cause. Some wines technically may be past their prime, but are still plenty delicious for that Friday night when you really need a drink but just refuse to leave the house. It’s all about how it tastes to you.

It’s important to note that wine won’t be �” in the sense of being dangerous or toxic to consume. It might be toxic to your tongue, but you won’t get sick if you sip on a Syrah that’s past its storage prime.

When Is My Wine Ready To Bottle?

What is the best way to tell when my wine is ready to bottle?

Great question, and an important one too. The last thing anyone wants to do is bottle their wine too soon. This is especially important if you plan on handing any of it out as wine making gifts. A significant amount of sediment could eventually form in the wine bottle, or worse yet, corks could possibly start pushing out and cause a mess.

Fortunately for us home winemakers, it’s very easy to determine if a wine is ready to be bottled. Here is what has to happen before you can bottle your wine:

1. Your wine has to be completely clear. There should be no more sediment that needs to fall out. Most of the sediment you’ll be dealing with is made up of tiny, microscopic yeast cells. These cells are as fine as flour. It is important to understand that even the slightest amount of murkiness in the wine at bottling time could lead to sediment in the wine bottles later. Give the wine plenty of time to clear. If you’re not sure wait, longer.

2. Your wine should read less than .998 on the Specific Gravity scale of your wine hydrometer. This is telling you that the fermentation process has actually finished and hasn’t just stalled out halfway, or still fermenting very slowly as a stuck fermentation. If you do not have a wine hydrometer I would urge you to get one. They are not that expensive and can save you a lot of problems in the long run.

3. The wine should be free of any residual CO2 gas. This is the gas that occurs when the wine ferments. CO2 gas is the same stuff that makes beer foam and soda pop fizzy. Once the wine is taken off the sediment, you can stir the wine to get this gas to release. You may want to consider purchasing a Degassing/Mixing Paddle to help you with this process. It is a paddle that attaches to a hand drill and will fit in the opening of a carboy as well as an opening of a plastic fermenter.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

How to use a wine rack to store sweaters and T-shirts

To eke out a few more days of freshness, you'll be more successful if you use one of a number of fairly inexpensive gadgets. We tested the widely available VacuVin stopper (vacuums air out of the bottle and "corks" it with rubber) the inflatable-balloon-style Air Cork (creates an airtight seal inside the bottle) and the PlatyPreserve (stores the wine in an airtight bag) . All of these toys attempt to stop oxidation by extracting air from the bottle or blocking the air from hitting the wine's surface. And we've found that all of those methods will keep leftover wine fresh for up to three more days—but they work most effectively when the wine is stored in the refrigerator.

Stage 6 – ageing

One of the appeals of wine is that left in a cool dark place it will continuously change. Flavours and aromas will develop and improve. Unfortunately, the process is very complex, so it is not possible to predict from bottle to bottle when flavour and aroma will peak. There are interactions between hundreds of different compounds, all of which contribute towards the ultimate flavour, aroma and structure of the drink.

One set of such compounds are the tannins. Tannins are the third most important feature of a wine's flavour after sweetness and acidity. They are phenolic compounds that are common in darker fruits such as elderberries and red grapes, especially in the skins. They bind to the proteins in our saliva, inhibiting its ability to lubricate the mouth, causing a puckering, astringent feeling.

Some fruits, such as strawberries, lack tannins and so do not have the "mouth feel" of good wines for these, tannin-rich black tea is an important addition. As wine ages, excess tannins slowly bind together in long chains and fall to the bottom of the bottle as sediment, allowing the wine to mellow. The more tannins in your wine, the longer you'll have to age it. For example, elderberry wine might need two years before the tannins mellow and it reaches its peak. I leave all my wines for at least six months before I take a sip to see whether it is ready to share with others.