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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I recently had a small "argument" with a wine steward at a Chicago restaurant. As he went to open a wine we ordered off the list (a 2002 Rhône), the cork literally crumbled into many small pieces. Question is, can a wine still be good if the cork crumbles? He argued it would still be OK. I refused and ordered a new bottle.
—David H., Chicago
I've been waiting to make a "that's the way the cork crumbles" joke for a while, but I think you're both wrong on this one. Even though a crumbly cork is a sign of concern, it doesn't mean the wine is automatically bad, nor does it mean it's automatically OK. You really need to taste it to find out. I've had some terrific wines from bottles where the cork turned to sawdust in my hands (though typically from bottles older than the one you were served) and I've had other wines that were obviously oxidized because the cork was brittle and dried out.
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