Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I opened a corked bottle of 2008 Cabernet from a well-known winery in the Stags Leap District. My guests all agreed that the wine was corked. I contacted the winery and discussed the situation with them on a subsequent visit to Napa. Since I could not prove I purchased it there, they would not agree to replace the bottle. What are your thoughts—should they replace a corked bottle?

—Anne C., Huntersville, N.C.

Dear Anne,

The good news is that you sound like you have a good understanding of what “corky” or “corked” wines are, and how the harmless but annoying chemical compound TCA, or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, can affect wines with moldy, damp basement notes.

It can be a little easier to deal with a corky wine if you get one in a restaurant. The whole ritual of tasting before being served a bottle is to give you some recourse in the event the bottle is flawed—you can just point out that the bottle is off, and they should replace it with a fresh bottle. That’s not to say these transactions always go smoothly—if the person handling your wine isn’t as good as you are at picking out notes of TCA, it can be a little awkward.

When it comes to bottles that you purchase at retail, I think it’s perfectly fair for either the retailer or the producer (if you purchase directly from them) to ask for your receipt. It’s also not unusual to be asked to return the opened, flawed bottle. I realize that’s not convenient or possible in every case, but I don’t think it’s convenient or possible for a retailer or producer to replace a bottle of wine every time a person tells them they had a flawed bottle a while back. A well-known Cabernet from the Stags Leap District probably costs $200 or more.

Even though I think these practices are fair, the larger point is that you are their customer, and you aren’t happy with how the winery treated you. Perhaps there was something they could have done to let you know they value your business, and to give you more confidence in their brand—comp a tasting, offer you a discount, or give you a free bottle of something less expensive. In the future, it’s probably a good idea to keep receipts of the expensive bottles you purchase, and not dump corky bottles when you get them. Immediately contact the business you purchased the wine from and hope they can replace it.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 365,000+ ratings.