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Dear Dr. Vinny,

If a very small amount of wine (a couple of drops) comes out of a bottle of wine that has been kept at slightly less than room temperature, is that a sign that the wine is bad?

—Steve M., Boynton Beach, Fla.

Dear Steve,

Some day I’m going to open a wine crime scene investigation unit. We’d come to your house, inspect the couple of drops of wine, shake our heads and tell you frankly that the only conclusive way to tell if there’s anything wrong with your wine is to open it.

A couple of drops of wine leaking could be the sign of a faulty cork, or a clue that the wine had been exposed to high temperatures, causing the wine to press past the cork. In either scenario, the wine might be totally fine, it might be unpleasant, or it could be somewhere in between. If the cork let more oxygen in, the flavors might take on a nutty, oxidized note. If it was extreme temperatures, the wine might taste stewed, or tired.

I’ve had the real-life experience of leaving a case of wine in my car for too long on a hot day, and some of the bottles leaked. Some of the leaky wines were perfectly OK; others went down the sink. After all, a cork is a sliver a tree bark, so it’s not surprising that they vary from cork to cork in how well they seal.

Did something suspicious happen? Maybe. But for this investigator, I’m going to need a corkscrew to further investigate.

—Dr. Vinny

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