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,
My basement wine cellar flooded—with sewage!—and my collection was underwater for a day. Are my wines ruined?
—David, Shelby Township, Mich.
The problem with flood damage is that it can vary from bottle to bottle. The good news is that after only a few hours, it’s unlikely that the wastewater seeped through any corks and into your wines (although that could become a concern over longer periods of time), but it also depends on the condition of the corks. Note that the Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau advises against long-term storage of wine underwater. If you have bottles with screwcaps, they should be fine as long as the screwcaps remained intact and undamaged.
My biggest concern would be over mold growing on labels and capsules. Removing the capsules or cutting the tops off should help prevent any mold from growing underneath them. Cleaning the botles down with a mild alcohol solution or mold-prevention product like Concrobium can help. Avoid using any bleach or chlorine-based products, as the spoilage compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) can form when mold, chlorine and phenols get together.