What would cause the cork of a bottle of wine kept in a wine fridge to expand to a point that it pops out of the bottle?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What would cause the cork of a bottle of wine kept in a wine fridge to expand to a point that it pops out of the bottle? The temperature ranged from 55 to 60.

—Michael K., Ridgewood, N.J.

Dear Michael,

You didn’t mean 55 to 60 degrees Celsius, did you? Because otherwise, I’m not sure how that could happen. A cork would start to pop out of the bottle only if the wine or pressure inside the bottle started to expand, and that only happens at temperature extremes of hot or cold, and ones that happen for a spell of time.

Once I put a bottle of wine in the freezer to chill it quickly, but I left it there too long. The water content of the wine started to freeze, and since water expands when it freezes and there wasn’t much space in the bottle for it to go, it started to push out the cork. I’ve also experienced “cooked” bottles where the wine expanded because of heat and started to seep out of the bottle, pushing out the cork along with it.

There’s a chance the cork itself was faulty—dried out, not a tight seal, or not inserted properly—but if the bottle was fine one day and not the next, I think you should buy a thermometer and make sure your wine fridge is keeping the temperature it says it is.

—Dr. Vinny

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