Is there any reason why the foil covering the tops of wine bottles should be left on?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is there any reason why the foil covering the tops of wine bottles should be left on (with the exception of collectors who plan on reselling the wine)? It seems it would be easier to see the state of the cork and whether there are signs of seepage without the foil covering in place.

—Dan M., Montreal, Quebec

Dear Dan,

Historically, this foil (known as a wine bottle’s “capsule”) helped protect bottles from insects and other vermin that might be tempted to nibble at the corks. These days, it’s considered a part of the wine’s packaging—you’ll notice that some producers use it as an extra canvas to get their branding message across. Some other producers, particularly in California, do away with capsules entirely and sell their wine with the cork exposed, citing environmental, cost and aesthetic factors.

I have no problem removing the entire capsule when I’m at home, and indeed, it’s the standard at the Wine Spectator offices, where capsules are removed before bottles are bagged for blind tastings. But in more formal circumstances, it’s still considered proper wine etiquette to remove only the top part of the capsule before serving, to keep the wine’s packaging intact.

—Dr. Vinny

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