Vinous Oddities: The cork lottery

Buying a wine that’s sealed with a cork is a bit like buying a lottery ticket. Every cork is slightly different so the amount of air each lets into the bottle will vary. If the bottle has been exposed to heat at some stage between the bottling line and your table it could be well off the pace.

Heated wine expands and puts pressure on the cork. A sound, youthful cork can take quite a bit of pressure before it starts to let wine seep out. Unfortunately not every cork is sound and/or youthful. When the wine cools down air may be sucked into the bottle to replace wine that has oozed out. The result is a premature ageing and oxidation.

How do you know that a cork has leaked? Check the capsule for signs of mould or dried wine and avoid buying wine with any obvious staining. If you have a choice of bottles stand them upright and compare their wine levels. When you choose the bottle with the highest level you’re also buying a bit of insurance that the bottle hasn’t been subjected to excessive heat and has a sound cork.

Or you could simply buy a bottle with a screwcap.


First published in KiaOra Magazine – Jan 2010.

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