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.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I recently bought a wine that I have never had before, a Toro from Spain. I noticed that there was mold on the outside of the cork, and the cork was incredibly difficult to remove (it actually crumbled after I got it out of the neck). I did not notice any mold inside the bottle, and the wine did not taste moldy or bad. Should I have brought the bottle back? Or is that normal?

—Ray P., Chicago

Dear Ray,

Mold happens. Wine is often stored in damp, dark, humid conditions, so a bit of moisture trapped under a capsule can result in mold. It's not that unusual, and usually the wine is unaffected. Don't confuse a bit of harmless mold on a cork with trichloroanisole, or TCA, which can impart a moldy, wet-cement character to a wine. TCA happens at the parts-per-trillion level, and is not visible when it's present (unless you have superhero vision and could see a few grains of sand in an Olympic-size swimming pool).

You didn't mention if the wine was old or not. Old corks sometimes get a little crumbly, just like old people. That's why we wine geeks always suggest you store wine on its side—to keep the cork moist, so it doesn't dry out.

—Dr. Vinny

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