In spite of my advanced years and widespread experience, I am still somewhat embarrassed when restaurant servers hand me the cork after they open a bottle of wine for me. I know they are trained to do so, and I suspect that somewhere deep inside them, they believe that because I have spent $40 or so on a bottle, the cork belongs to me.
To be fair, there is a modicum of reason behind presenting the cork. There is a feeling that a sniff of the cork will determine whether the wine is still good and that a look at the print on the cork will confirm that the wine is really what the label says it is. Fair enough.
In truth, I have never smelled a cork that smells like anything other than — well, cork. A bit of must perhaps or even mold. But have I ever gleaned a sense of the wine inside? No, not really. The label tells me whether the bottle matches the name on the wine list, and a sip reveals the wine’s condition.
I never know quite what to do with the cork. On a white table cloth, it appears a bit unseemly. I could hand it back to the server or refuse to accept it, but that seems a bit dismissive of someone trying to please me. I could put it my pocket, but that’s something of an inconvenience and not especially good for my decorum.
So I have taken to thanking the server and indicating that a review of the cork is unncessary. And so far, not a single server has ever offered me a screwcap to examine.