Is it possible to revitalize a dried-out cork?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is it possible to revitalize a dried-out cork?

—Chuck, Kodak, Tenn.

Dear Chuck,

Cork has a honeycomb-like cell structure that gives it its critically important elasticity. Wine bottle corks are cut larger than the opening they're intended for, and then compressed upon insertion. If you’ve ever tried to put a cork back in a bottle after removing it and found that it doesn't fit, you’ve seen how quickly they can expand (this is especially true of corks for sparkling wine). But cork loses its elasticity and resilience over time, and an older cork won’t expand as well as a fresh one—especially if it dries out, which can cause it to become quite brittle and crumbly. (That's why it's so important to store wine bottles on their sides, so that the cork doesn't dry out.)

Once that cork dries out and turns brittle, any effort to restore its elasticity really isn't worth the effort, in my opinion. Some folks claim to have had success with boiling old corks to rehydrate them, but I've also read that that can leave the cork susceptible to new microbial growth. The good news is that cork is plenty recyclable, as well as biodegradable. Old corks can be recycled into everything from flooring to furniture to footwear, and they're also great for crafts, like those fun wine-cork trivets!

—Dr. Vinny

Closures Corks Recycling Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

If a cork gets pushed into a wine bottle, is the wine ruined?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny puts a reader's fears to rest and offers tips for how to …

May 24, 2019

How do you clean wineglasses to a spot-free, clear shine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for cleaning fine stemware.

May 22, 2019

What does the word “unctuous” mean in a wine tasting note?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the term "unctuous," typically ascribed to …

May 20, 2019

Are collectible wines still collectible after the wine has gone bad?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny talks to Penfolds winemaker Peter Gago about 50-year-old …

May 17, 2019

Why aren't bottles stored on their sides at wine stores?

Wine's Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why wine bottles need to be stored on their …

May 15, 2019

Is there a polite way to tell a winemaker that I'm not enjoying their wines?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny suggests a few etiquette tips for kindly declining an …

May 13, 2019
WineRatings+

WineRatings+

Xvalues

Xvalues

Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search