Monday, January 26, 2009

Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle

This is molecular gastronomy at its most useful.
A couple of weeks ago, I read about a trick for repairing corked wine. It was in a Harold McGee column for the New York Times. One of McGee's sources was Andrew Waterhouse, a professor of wine chemistry at UC Davis.
McGee had been experimenting with pennies and knife tips and magnets and who knows what-all in his attempts to improve wine. Kick start it into drinkable. Speed aeration. Even speed aging. (Hint: Warm closet.)
But corked wine? That hideous gym shoe flavor that renders the entire bottle undrinkable; $30 down the drain; dammit. That's fixable?
I know I should just take bad bottles back to the store for a refund, but we shop in the sort of un-pricey category, and it would look chintzy of us to traipse into the market with an open bottle of smelly wine. "I want my cheap money back."
The ugly corked odor and taste come from infected corks. The infection is 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, says Mr. Waterhouse, which is chemically similar to polyethylene. Kitchen wrap. Plastic film. Yeeks.
The trick is to pour the cruddy wine into a bowl with a sheet of Glad Wrap for only a few minutes. The naughty molecules stick to the film. Right away. OMG. Science.
Just a few days after I read about this trick, Cranky opened a corked bottle of sherry. Would it work?
I warn you, I am a very sensitive taster.
Verdict: It worked. We resurrected a whole bottle of cruddy sherry with a lab experiment.
It worked!
P.S.: Rinse the bottle out before you refill it. And throw away the rotten cork.

19 comments:

kudzu said...

This is nothing short of brilliant -- both the published research and your sharing it. What a coup.

Goes to show, if you wait long enough there are always new tricks to make life easier and better.

jimmycrackedcorn said...

Neat trick. I didn't even know wine was sometimes smelly. huh.

Greg said...

Remember in The Graduate Dustin Hoffman is told the future is in plastics.I think the future is Screw caps.That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

dancingmorganmouse said...

Holy smacking duck poo Cookie - that's amazing! I'm so going to try that next bottle disappointment. Better than stamping my feet and tossing it down the drain.
Not that we have that many bottle disappointments anymore, most Australian mid-range wines come with a screw cap nowadays - not so much fun but fewer corkings!

Heather said...

That is a neat trick! Oh, science, what can't you do?

Kel said...

ive never actually wanted a corked bottle da vino before now... you reckon it might work with just a really 'crap drop a da vino' too or is that asking too much?

Zoomie said...

Now, that's news I can use! Thanks for spreading the info.

Zoomie said...

P.S. Cool picture, too. Oh, and the title - so clever!

The Italian Dish said...

Holy cow - No kidding? We've had that happen with a couple of very expensive wines (I'm hoping wine makers start using more screwcaps, personally) and there was nothing to do but dump them down the sink . . . until now! Thanks!

onlinepastrychef said...

Genius! This, as they say, is well worth the price of admission!

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: For some reason, it feels like cheating. Aren't we supposed to be taking dares with wine?

Jimmy: Lucky you, you've never had a corked bottle. Or you're just very tolerant of a rainbow of flavors. :)

Greg: Screw caps = no bad cork. You are correct, sir.

Morgan: It's unbelievable, except I did it, and it's believable.

Heather: I love science. I think Obama does, too.

Kel: Hah! No, Saran Wrap won't rescue a bottle of plonk. It's chemistry!

Zoomie: Thank you! How funny that we opened a corked bottle so soon after I read this story (before I had a chance to forget). I won't forget now.

Italian Dish: It's a revolting odor and taste. This miracle cure takes the yucks right out. Amazing. But, yeah, screw caps make sense.

cookiecrumb said...

Onlinepastrychef: (Somebody always sneaks under the radar while I'm typing replies.)
Come back often! I'm full of tricks.

pea said...

i dont have much to add to the shock and awe this actually worked for you, but the word verification? 'stern' what up wit dat?

Anonymous said...

Neat trick.

A little recommendation, I found these to be so delicious and useful in my kitchen: http://bajoseasonedsalts.com/

Cheers.

John

Anonymous said...

A professor of Wine Chemistry? That's a paid job? Where were those career counselors 20 years ago?? Sign me up!

katiez said...

That has to be the best 'kitchen tip' ever!!!
I wonder if it could have improved the crap we made last year... No, to say it was 'corked' would have been a compliment!
I assume any film would work - you're not touting Glad Wrap, are you?

cookiecrumb said...

Anonymous: Totally! Back in the day, it wasn't even cool to major in food; now chefs are rockstars.

Katie: Ha, no, any poly wrap will do. And, no I don't think it can do *everything*. My advice is keep trying!

peter said...

This is almost enough to make me hope for a corked bottle soon so I can try it.

Almost.

cookiecrumb said...

Peter: I know! Go up to wine salesman. Say, "Sir, could you sell me a corked bottle?" Crazy. Anyway, you will probably end up trying it some day.