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ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I received an order from a winery in which six of the 12 bottles didn’t have capsules. Should I be concerned? Does this affect long-term aging or resale value?

—J.C., Los Angeles

Dear J.C.,

It’s not clear to me from your question whether or not the wines were supposed to have capsules or not. More and more winemakers are doing away with the capsule as part of their packaging, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some wines in a producer’s lineup had capsules and some didn’t.

The capsule—that foil sleeve on the top of a wine bottle—is decorative and doesn’t affect the quality of the wine inside. Historically it was designed to protect bottles from insects and vermin nibbling on a cork. I’ve also recently heard of another, more scandalous theory that capsules were a way of preventing someone’s butler from pulling corks on the good stuff and replacing it with plonk.

These days it's just part of a wine’s packaging, so if the bottles you ordered were supposed to have capsules but are missing them, then yes, that would definitely affect the wine’s resale value. You might want to contact the winery in that case. Remember that in more formal circumstances, it’s still considered proper wine etiquette to remove only the top part of the capsule before serving, to keep the wine’s packaging intact.

As I mentioned, though it can make a bottle appear naked, some producers do away with capsules entirely and sell their wine with the cork exposed, citing environmental, cost and aesthetic factors. This method is becoming more popular. Some wine lovers like the transparency of being able to tell if a cork is leaking in their cellar, rather than saving it for a special occasion and getting a surprise when they remove the capsule.

—Dr. Vinny


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