Re-corking aged wines is a rare practice that consists of retiring the old cork of a wine bottle and replacing it with a brand new one. As an average, some wineries suggest replacing the cork every 20-30 years. Some recommend doing it after 15 years. Since a lot of wine consumption is done within 1-2 years after purchase, this practice isn’t widely spread, though it is considered an important part of storing wine and guaranteeing its original quality as well as proper aging. Think of it as a routine medical checkup for your wine. You get a physical exam once a year, while your wine gets it every 15 to 20 years. This is a preventive method that protects your investment from spoiling.
As you wouldn’t give yourself a medical exam, you shouldn’t re-cork your wine yourself. You can search the phrase “re-corking wine” on Google or Yahoo and get a thousand results on how to do it yourself. That doesn’t mean you should. I strongly recommend that you let a professional re-cork your aged wine, as certain things can only be done by the winemaker who produced the wine. Re-corking wine is a delicate process, one could say it’s an art. A lot of wineries will offer re-corking clinics. By letting the original winemaker do the job, you are basically giving yourself the assurance of perfection. Also, I bet you’re dying to know how your wine is aging… well, now is your chance. This process will allow you to have a taste of your wine while being re-corked. Keep in mind this is an old wine, you might want to put it aside for an hour or two in order to get a sense of how the wine is opening up.
The winery doesn’t just replace the cork. We’re talking about a complete checkup here! This meticulous system is comprised of multiple inspection points. In some cases, they inspect the bottle for its quality. Also, a member of the winemaking team will taste the wine and assess its current condition. As you notice, this process will deplete some of the precious content. But don’t worry, it will be topped up with a recent vintage of the same wine, re-corked, sealed with a new Penfolds capsule, and certified by the winemaker. If the same wine isn’t available, tiny clear glass balls will be used instead to compensate for evaporated wine and bring the filling level in the bottle back to normal. This entire process certifies the wine for quality, ensuring attendees leave the Clinic with their re-corked collection in excellent condition, ready for continued cellaring.
Some wineries offer this service to their loyal customers. Those complementary clinics are conducted approximately every two years. They provide you with an opportunity to meet and schmooze with the winemaker who will assess your wine. Remember, this process can be done to any wine produced by the winery as long as it is at least 15 years of age. This will vary based on the type of wine and the winery’s rules.
Should you re-cork your wine? The answer is maybe. You shouldn’t systematically re-cork every single bottles of wine you own just because they are 15 years old or more. In my humble opinion, if the wine costs less than $30, you probably should drink it and enjoy the heck out of it right now. An extra 15 years isn’t going to make much of a difference to that particular wine, unless specified otherwise by the winemaker. On the other hand, if you spent a minimum of $50 for a bottle of wine, and know for a fact that you can cellar it for more than 15 years, then I would recommend re-corking that one.
The Penfolds winery offers this service in various locations throughout the world. The next ones will be held in the major Australian capital cities during 2014. Watch a video explaining the intricate practice of re-corking clinics.
Re-corking aged wine isn’t for everyone. You really must have the means to do it. If you’re not sure about the aging properties of your wine, you should contact the winery and get some information. As far as I’m concerned, once the cork is popped, it’s time to enjoy!