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.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I want to buy some older Bordeauxs from an auction, but it was stated that some of the wines showed signs of seepage and others had lightly corroded capsules and wine-stained labels. What does that mean? Are these wines safe to buy without looking at the bottles?

—Aldrin T., Los Angeles

Dear Aldrin,

Even if you could hold the bottle in your hand, there’s no way to tell if an older wine is still showing well until you actually pop the cork and try it. “Signs of seepage” means just what you might think—that at some point (probably because the wine had been exposed to excessive heat)—the wine expanded and pushed itself past the cork. “Lightly corroded capsules and wine-stained labels” are also indications that there was some seepage of the wine—sure capsules might start to look corroded after 20 years or so, but a label that’s stained by wine (and not moisture, mildew, dirt or marks caused by its storage), has definitely seeped out at some point.

That said, seepage happens, and I’ve had some wines with signs of seepage that have been perfectly delicious. I’ve also had wines with signs of seepage that have been terrible. You should absolutely work those details into your risk assessment.

—Dr. Vinny


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