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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.

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

A long-forgotten, unopened bottle of Pinot Grigio in my refrigerator appears as if about a third of the wine is gone/evaporated. I suspect my teenagers of drinking it, but I cannot see how it is opened. The seal still seems in place. Any ideas?

—Melinda, Novato, Calif.

Dear Melinda,

I wish I could crack the Case of the Missing Pinot Grigio, but that is really strange. It’s entirely possible that a bottle of wine sealed with a cork can experience some evaporation in a refrigerator—it's dry in there, and the cork can shrivel, allowing wine to evaporate. But a third of the bottle shouldn’t disappear!

There’s actually a term for the headspace in a bottle of wine: ullage. It’s typically used in discussing older wines. A wine that’s less than 20 years old shouldn’t have any ullage beyond the neck of the bottle. Similarly, it would be really strange if a bottle was more than 50 years old and barely had any ullage. Keep in mind that the more ullage, the more air that is in the bottle, which means that if a third of your bottle is missing, the wine is probably oxidized and undrinkable.

How did the wine disappear? I don’t want to point any fingers, but the only thing I can think of is that either someone sneaky pulled the cork and was able to replace it (replacing the capsule would be much more difficult, however), or they had a Coravin, a fancy wine-preservation and serving tool which siphons out wine via a needle … but I highly doubt any teens would spend a couple hundred dollars on a Coravin just to sneak a few glasses of Pinot Grigio!

—Dr. Vinny

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