Is a bottle of wine ruined if the wine has seeped through the cork?

Ask Dr Vinny

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,

Is a bottle of wine ruined if the wine has seeped through the cork?

—Christine, Murrieta, Calif.

Dear Christine,

The only fool-proof method to answering whether or not a wine has gone bad is to smell and taste it, but a leaky cork is not a good sign. There are many reasons that wine might have seeped through or around a cork: The cork may have been faulty to begin with; it could have shrunk as a result of drying out; if the bottle was exposed to heat, that could cause the wine to expand and push its way past the cork.

The wine could be perfectly fine, but in terms of flaws, there are a few things to watch for that may be related to a leaking cork. If wine is passing through or around the cork, then that means oxygen is probably getting in as well. Excessive exposure to air can cause a wine to oxidize and taste tired or nutty—like an apple slice that has started to turn brown. Or perhaps the wine will taste “cooked” as a result of overexposure to heat. In heat-damaged wines, the fresh fruit flavors may be replaced by baked or stewed fruit notes. Regardless, there’s no fear that the flawed wine will make you sick—it just might not taste as great as it should.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny corks storage wine-flaws

More In Dr. Vinny

What does "père et fils" indicate on a wine label?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains a few of the French terms you might see on a …

Jul 5, 2022

Once chilled, must a wine stay chilled? Is it ruined if it warms up again?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny debunks the myth that wine shouldn't be chilled and then …

Jun 27, 2022

Does Pinot Noir come in both red and white versions? Are they the same grape?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how red wines get their color. (Hint: It's not …

Jun 22, 2022

If you're supposed to hold a wineglass by the stem, why are stemless glasses so popular?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains the pros and cons of stemless …

Jun 13, 2022

How much do our taste buds influence our perception of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains how taste sensitivity impacts our …

Jun 6, 2022

What's the shelf life of a box of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains why box wines aren't meant to …

May 31, 2022