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 recently got a wine cooler to store all my wine and Champagne bottles. The temperature is set at approximately 46 degrees F. However, some of the Champagne bottles have started to leak, causing a mess in the wine cooler. What’s causing the Champagne bottles to leak?

—Desmond N., Singapore

Dear Desmond,

That’s really strange. A bottle leaks when its seal has been compromised, which usually happens when the cork dries out or the wine undergoes extremes in temperature (usually heat). But sparkling wines rarely have dried-out corks—and by “rarely” I mean I’ve never heard of it happening. Bottles of Champagne and other sparkling wines are naturally humid inside because of all the pressure created by the carbonation.The other thing that’s weird is that your wines are hardly exposed to heat. While 46 degrees F is a little cooler than the typical storage recommendation of about 55 degrees, it’s an ideal temperature for serving, so a virtual high-five from me for always having some bubbly ready to go.

I wonder if the leaking that you’re experiencing isn’t actually the Champagne leaking out, but rather condensation. When a cool bottle moves into a warmer environment, the moisture vapor in the air will condense—the same effect that makes cold beer bottles slick when you take them out of a refrigerator on a hot day. My theory is that there might be a lot of temperature fluctuation in your wine cooler, and as it gets warmer in there, condensation is forming on your bottles of bubbly. If the leakage looks and smells like water and not wine, then that’s my best guess.

—Dr. Vinny


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