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Dear Dr. Vinny,

When I opened a long-stored wine bottle, the cork was soaking wet throughout, and it appeared rotted. The corkscrew pulled right out of the cork and it fell apart. What can cause this?

—Nick, Saginaw, Mich.

Dear Nick,

I know exactly what you’re talking about. Occasionally the cork I’ve pulled out from a (typically older) bottle has been a soft, moist mess. Most of the time the wine was fine, but sometimes the wine seemed oxidized—nutty and Sherry-like, and prematurely old.

There are a few things that can cause this, the first being exposure to heat. Heat can cause the wine inside a bottle to expand and push up against the cork. Low humidity can also play a factor, causing the cork to dry out and challenging its seal. And some corks are just faulty, as if they aren’t big enough or aren’t as elastic as one might expect to provide a good seal.

—Dr. Vinny

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