Is it a bad sign if a wine bottle cork is loose?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is it a bad sign if a cork is loose? When I removed it there was a reddish tinge around the complete outside of the cork, and the wine didn't meet my expectations.

—Don, Naperville, Ill.

Dear Don,

A loose cork is a bad sign. It indicates the cork didn't provide an adequate seal. The reddish tinge suggests the cork was also saturated with wine, which is another cause for concern. Sometimes a wine is still tasty with a loose or saturated cork, but it usually means something went wrong.

It could have been a faulty cork—either improperly sized, or it wasn’t as elastic as it was expected to be when it was compressed into the neck of the wine bottle.

The fact that the cork was saturated suggests that some wine may have leaked out, either due to a faulty cork, heat exposure or both.

Any time wine can escape a bottle, it also means that air can get in, causing premature oxidation, which might explain why the wine wasn’t showing its best.

—Dr. Vinny

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