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 work for a wine importer. Today we received a call from a customer who said that when they opened one of our producer’s wine bottles, bugs flew out. My coworkers and I are curious—can fruit flies or bugs develop in a wine bottle? The wine was a Chardonnay from Argentina. Screw cap and not cork. Hope you can shed some light on this comical mystery.

—Atilio, Montebello, Calif.

Dear Atilio,

If you’re the squeamish type and sipping a glass of wine right now, you might want to read on with caution. I’ve found bugs—including a perfectly preserved housefly—in sealed bottles before, but they’ve all been dead. It’s unusual, but I can see how bugs might be curious about a bottling line, and things happen.

I really doubt that flies—even pesky fruit flies, which are very attracted to fermented products like wine—would be able to survive inside a sealed container long enough to still be buzzing about when you open the bottle. First of all, most flies have a lifespan of just a few weeks, and it’s unlikely that a bottle of wine, particularly one that’s imported, would make it from the bottling line into a consumer’s hands in such a short time frame.

Secondly, even if bugs did get into a bottle, they’re unlikely to be able to produce any offspring—you did say “bugs,” after all. What are the chances that a boy fruit fly and a girl fruit fly could find love in such cramped quarters? Even if they did, there’s no safe place for them to put their eggs, which are usually stored on the surface of the skin of a fruit. Flies feel the effects of alcohol just as you and I do, which can make them feel sedated and lead to death by drowning. And flies need oxygen, though not as much as we do. They’re much easier to drown than to strangle or swat.

That said, fruit flies can seem to appear out of nowhere. I’m guessing there were some in the area when your customer’s bottle of wine was opened, and they made a beeline to the open bottle. See what I did there? Beeline?

—Dr. Vinny


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