Q: What's the best way to clean mold from a bottle of wine?—Jess, Wichita, Kan.
A: Wine cellars need to be a little humid to prevent corks from drying out—70 percent humidity is considered ideal—which means mold sometimes happens, clinging to labels and even corks. Mold can be a little messy, but it won't damage the wines. Nevertheless, you may want to clean up those bottles for presentation or for auction, but stay away from cleaning products, which absolutely can damage your wines!
There's not much that can be done about mold that's penetrated a label, but to clean mold from the glass, just wipe it with a clean, soft cloth towel. Avoid cleaning products, especially anything containing chlorine (chlorine is a key component of TCA, the compound responsible for so many cork-tainted wines). If you want to be a little more aggressive, try using a diluted rubbing alcohol solution, or just a little hot water.
But if you have a mold allergy, ask someone else to take on the task of cleaning those bottles. "Most patients with mold allergies have respiratory allergies and have problems when they inhale molds," says Dr. Sean McGhee, clinical associate professor of allergy and immunology at Stanford School of Medicine. "As long as the mold is cleaned from the bottle by someone else so they don’t inhale a large number of spores, they will likely be fine. … [But] I would not drink wine where the mold has penetrated the bottle and is in the wine itself."