Are you supposed to put the capsule back on an unfinished bottle of wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I saw a video on TikTok that said that after you open a bottle of wine, you should not put the cork back in. Instead, you should put the capsule back on the bottle, with the two little holes to allow air in and out. Is that true?

—Carlos, Weston, Fla.

Dear Carlos,

No, that is not what the capsule is for nor why those holes are there. For those who don’t know what a capsule is, it’s the sleeve that fits over the top of the bottle and covers the cork; they’re most commonly made from tin or aluminum foil or plastic, or sometimes the neck of the bottle is dipped in wax instead. The capsule’s historical purpose was to protect the cork until the bottle was ready to be opened, but these days they are just decorative. Those small holes in the capsule act as vents for when it’s being placed on the bottle, to allow the capsule to get a tighter fit (they are not for aeration). And lots of capsules can’t even be removed in one piece—I typically cut the top off with the small knife blade on my waiter’s corkscrew, and if it’s a foil capsule with sharp edges I might just remove the whole thing.

Corks tend to expand once they are removed from being squished into the neck of a bottle of wine. If you want to put the cork back in, you might find it easier to put it back in the bottle with the cork upside-down, i.e., with the wine-stained end sticking up.

If your wine could use some aeration, those two little vent holes are not going to be effective; swirl the wine in your wineglass or use a decanter if the wine needs to “breathe.” Most of the time, once you open a bottle of wine, if you’re not going to finish it that day, the focus should be on eliminating the wine’s exposure to oxygen so the wine will stay fresh. Check out our Wine 101 video, "How to Save Leftover Wine."

—Dr. Vinny

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