An illustration of two wine bottles chilling

5 Mistakes People Make With Wine (and What to Do Instead)

The best way to fix a broken cork, chill a bottle down fast, and more, according to Master Sommelier June Rodil.

Whether she’s presenting bottles to guests at her Houston restaurant March or leading tastings onstage at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Master Sommelier June Rodil wows people with her wealth of wine knowledge. What better person to turn to for help with the most basic of wine dilemmas? Even a certified wine professional like Rodil admits that it’s easy to make simple mistakes when storing, presenting, or serving wine. Maybe you opened too many bottles of Champagne and want to keep them for tomorrow, or you accidentally broke a cork while opening a special bottle. Don’t stress, says Rodil: These simple mistakes can be fixed quickly and are easily avoided moving forward. Here, she shares her expert solutions for everyday wine problems.

Don’t use a spoon to keep Champagne bubbly

Skip putting the stem of a spoon into an open bottle of bubbles; to keep Champagne bubbly longer, it’s actually best to just leave the bottle alone. What dissipates bubbles is movement, and a spoon clinking against the sides of the bottle can pop more bubbles than it preserves. 

Instead, keep that Champagne cold, which will slow down the loss of bubbles. If you have a cork that fits in the bottle, recork it — Champagne that’s been open for a while isn’t going to explode — and the seal actually maintains bubbles. Give it a try. Stick a cork in one bottle and not the other, put them both in the fridge overnight, and you’ll see the difference. But who has two open bottles of Champagne sitting around, anyway? 

Don’t put ice in the wine bucket first 

I don’t think anyone truly loves any kind of wine at actual room temperature, which is about 72°F. If a bottle of wine is that warm, I pop it in an ice bath for a few minutes. Two minutes in an ice bath works great for a Cabernet, five minutes is good for a chilled red or full-bodied white, and a few more than that for light whites and bubbles. My biggest pet peeve, though, is when people want to chill wine down and put the ice in the bucket first. Like, oh my god, what in the physics? The bottles will just lie on top of the ice, and nothing will happen. Put the bottle in first, top it with ice and water so it’s more or less submerged, and you’re good to go.

Don’t splurge on a fancy corkscrew

You really don’t need one. I love an Ah-So. It’s less than $10 on Amazon, and if I had to choose only one wine opener for the rest of my life, it would be an Ah-So. It’s a combination of a Durand and a traditional corkscrew. It’s my favorite because wine has sugar in it, and sometimes it gets sticky and the cork gets attached to the side of the bottle. The long metal tines of the Ah-So break through that stickiness. Plus, it’s gentle enough to deal with the issues old corks pose. You can use an Ah-So with any kind of cork, even plastic. 

Don’t give up if the cork breaks

Corks break all the time. And realizing that this happens all the time — yes, even for Master Sommeliers! — helps take the pressure off. If a cork breaks, I just continue to use my wine key. I move the screw to the very side of the cork and twist it in at an angle toward the edge of the bottle. If you go through the center, the broken part is more likely to go down into the bottle. But honestly, when in doubt, just push the broken half down into the bottle, get a sieve or some cheesecloth, and pour the wine into another container — a clean pitcher, whatever you have. Poof, you’ve decanted your bottle. And, yes, you can decant white wines, too. 

Don’t order the good stuff on an airplane

Generally speaking, when you’re at a high altitude, your senses are a little bit more closed off. On planes, this is more noticeable because your ears get clogged up, which affects your sinuses, making it harder to smell or taste. That’s why a lot of people who choose the wine selections for airlines go with bold-flavored wines. (Sauvignon Blanc is really common in the air because it’s highly aromatic — even if you’re stuffed up, you’ll know what you’re tasting.) It doesn't really bother me because you get used to it quickly; I even took my Master Sommelier tasting exams in Aspen. And by the way, the really great thing about tasting wines at altitude is that once you go back down to sea level, everything tastes better. 

One of F&W’s 2014 Sommeliers of the Year, June Rodil is a partner of the lauded Houston-based Goodnight Hospitality group. In 2023, Rodil will speak at her fifth Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. 

Top Illustration by VISBII

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