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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,

Let me be the first to ask, how do I assess whether flooding caused by superstorm Sandy ruined my wine? About 100 bottles were submerged in seawater for a couple of days. There was a mixture of French, Italian and California. Most were less than five or six years old, but there was also some 1990s-era Bordeaux.

Everything looks OK, except the dirt. Three bottles I opened this weekend tasted fine. Assuming no water seeped past the cork, should I remove the capsules to allow trapped moisture to escape? Any other recommended actions to minimize damage?

Believe me, I’m happy this is the worst of my problems, but it is something I’d like to handle properly. Thank you for your help.

—Kenneth S., Sea Bright, N.J.

Dear Kenneth,

My heart goes out to everyone who was in Sandy’s path, and I’m glad to hear you fared relatively well.

Floods are tricky, because the damage can vary from bottle to bottle. The tops of some of the corks may have absorbed some water—it depends on how tight the seal is, or on the state of the capsule. Over time, you may notice some harmless mold growing there as a result, and you’re right that removing the capsules would probably help with that. I imagine some of the labels will also be damaged, but that doesn’t affect the wine itself.

There’s not much else you can do, but I should warn that even though the wines were submerged in seawater, one problem with flooding can be an increased risk of E. coli or salmonella, depending on your proximity to sewage or farmland. To be safe, I’d use rubbing alcohol to clean off your bottles, especially the lips of the bottles, before handing and drinking them. Avoid using any chlorine products, which could complicate the situation.

On a lighter note, some restaurants in Chile have experimented with storing wine underwater. You can tell your wine-drinking friends you’re ahead of the curve.

—Dr. Vinny


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