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 opened three bottles recently of the same wine. All three corks were saturated, to the top of the bottle. Two bottles were drinkable, the other was not. What causes corks to be saturated?
It’s not so much a question of “what”—it’s probably just wine, if you’ll forgive me for being a smart-ass—but rather a question of why a cork might become saturated. You might be dealing with a batch of faulty corks; maybe they weren’t cut to the right size to expand and create a good fit. I’ve also seen corks that were jammed into the neck of the bottle at an odd angle during the bottling process, compromising the seal. Saturation could also be a sign that the wine was exposed to heat, causing the liquid inside the bottle to try to expand beyond the cork. Another explanation could be that at some point in their travels, the wines were stored in a not-humid-enough environment and/or the bottles weren’t kept on their sides, so the corks started to dry out and then became saturated afterward. Also, even with the best storage and handling in the world, a cork might become saturated just from the effects of age.
Whenever I see a leaky or saturated cork, an alarm bell goes off. But as you pointed out, even if a cork is compromised, it doesn’t necessarily mean the wine inside has suffered. I’ve had perfectly delicious wines from bottles with saturated corks, as well as undrinkable ones. The only way to tell is to pour a glass.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions