Sunday, May 10, 2009

Surely a Sign of the End of Days

Curious—I just opened a bottle of champagne essentially on autopilot, hardly giving much thought to the process. As I grasped the cork and prepared to twist the bottle, the cork flew out into my hand with a ferocious pop, which surprised me a little. (After all, I generally presume that I actually do know how to properly open a bottle of champagne by now.) I poured the wine into my glass, holding the cork in my other hand, but there was something that didn't seem quite right.

Upon examining the cork, I realized the problem—it's upside-down. It's a Mytik cork, which has a pronounced bevel on the top to accommodate the plaque. As you can see in this photo, the bevel, as well as the branding of the word "Mytik", is on the bottom. Unlike regular champagne corks, Mytik corks are made of the same material all the way through, so it's technically no big deal, but it's distinctly odd.

I don't know why the cork jumped out of the bottle. Maybe it didn't sit right inside the wire cage. Or maybe it was longing to restore its proper equilibrium, bringing itself once again into harmonious balance with the greater order of the natural world. Maybe it was just feeling indignant about being carelessly shoved in there upside-down and leaped out looking around for some ass to kick.

The wine is fine, anyway, and the cork has gone up on my wall of little oddities (alongside, you know, the bezoar, the shrunken head and the life-size replica of the Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom). I wonder, though, what would happen if you put a regular champagne cork into a bottle upside-down? I imagine that the composite part of the cork has a different porosity and character than the miroir, which is actually designed to be in contact with the wine. Have any of you ever drunk a champagne with an upside-down cork?


Ian Black said...

It's a bit odd that it came out so easily, isn't it? I would have expected it to be more difficult to extract.

Just as a matter of interest (and because I don't know) - do these Mytik corks come pre-crimped or is the bottler expected to crimp them him/herself? I've seen photos of them uncrimped, but your example suggests that the bottler had theirs pre-crimped.

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Samantha Dugan said...

I've not opened as many bottles as you, but I have had more than my fair share...I have never seen that.

Peter Liem said...


Are you referring to the bevel on the top of the cork? That's standard on all champagne corks, although with a greater or lesser angle depending on the manufacturer.

Ian Black said...

No - rather I was referring to the compression of the cork about a third to half the way down on downwards to the bottom, the top of which being where it is most squeezed (presumably to get it into the neck).

All this being because I have never seen the corks being prepared and inserted of course!

Peter Liem said...

Ah, that. No, all champagne corks come as a solid cylinder, surprisingly fat, really, for having to be squeezed into such a small opening. The bottom part is compressed by the machine that sticks it into the bottle, so that's how champagne corks get their mushroom shape.

Agnès said...

Hi Peter,

For sur, one always has to be very very careful when opening a bottle of Champagne. My dad who opened a countless number of bottles in his life once nearly knocked my niece down.
Grip firlmy and never ever point the bottle at anybody (or at least anybody you like)

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