The cork versus screw-top closure debates has been raging over the world of wine for some
time. Cork taint, caused by the chemical TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), seems to be the main
complaint among the screw-top closure camp; cork proponents counter that screw-tops can
cause problems due to reduction, off tastes caused by too little oxygen permeation into the
wine due to a seal that may be too tight.
A wide swath of vinopinion today holds that screw tops are suitable for wines not destined
for long term aging: the bulk of most wines consumed today. This author, who is also a
musician, sees the logic to this, yet he treasures his corks as hand and finger exercising
The standard natural wine cork as shown in the photos has just enough resistance and just
enough give to function as an ideal hand and finger exerciser; in fact it is these same
properties that make a (presumably taint-free) cork ideal as a wine stopper. The exercises
pictured herein are largely but not entirely isometric, and should for most musicians be
possible without risk of injury or strain.
While it may be obvious that screw top closures are not suited for these kind of exercises, it
should be noted that artificial and composite corks also do not work well. A good, full-sized
natural cork provides the appropriate properties.
A number of cork exercises are possible. Here are a few basic exercise types:
Whether concurrent consumption of wine enhances or detracts from the efficacy of these
exercises, or vice versa, remains the subject for some future doctoral thesis. The fact remains,
however, that many wines need anything from a short breathe to a lengthy decant; in the
meantime, that cork is crying to be used.
- Hold the cork between two fingers like a cigarette as shown in photo 1A. Squeeze the
fingers together then relax using a pumping action. Achieve different levels of exercise by
holding the cork further up or further down as shown in photos 1B and 1C, or try the twin
maneuver with two corks as shown in photo 1D.
- Exert pressure lengthwise on the cork by holding it between the tip of the thumb and the
end of each of the fingers in turn as shown in photo 2A. As a variant, try the fingertip to
fingertip technique shown in Photo 2B
- Using two nicely matched corks, nestle the corks horizontally across the palm of your
hand and squeeze them together to exercise the hand and grip as shown in photo 3A, or try
the vertical variant shown in photo 3B.
- Again holding two corks in the palm of your hand, roll one cork over the other to
increase manual dexterity, pushing with the thumb as shown in photos 4A and 4B. Reverse
direction every ten seconds or so.
Wine Pages Home
Wine inspires, as these new uses for wine corks attest.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman
Photos 1A and 1B: Finger Pump
Photos 1C and 1D: Finger Pump Alternates
Photos 2A and 2B: Spread Finger Pump
Photos 3A and 3B: Hand Strength
Photos 4A and 4B: Manual Dexterity
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