Is a bottle of wine ruined if the wine has seeped through the cork?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is a bottle of wine ruined if the wine has seeped through the cork?

—Christine, Murrieta, Calif.

Dear Christine,

The only fool-proof method to answering whether or not a wine has gone bad is to smell and taste it, but a leaky cork is not a good sign. There are many reasons that wine might have seeped through or around a cork: The cork may have been faulty to begin with; it could have shrunk as a result of drying out; if the bottle was exposed to heat, that could cause the wine to expand and push its way past the cork.

The wine could be perfectly fine, but in terms of flaws, there are a few things to watch for that may be related to a leaking cork. If wine is passing through or around the cork, then that means oxygen is probably getting in as well. Excessive exposure to air can cause a wine to oxidize and taste tired or nutty—like an apple slice that has started to turn brown. Or perhaps the wine will taste “cooked” as a result of overexposure to heat. In heat-damaged wines, the fresh fruit flavors may be replaced by baked or stewed fruit notes. Regardless, there’s no fear that the flawed wine will make you sick—it just might not taste as great as it should.

—Dr. Vinny

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