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Apr 8, 2013 09:46 AM

Foil, needed or not?

I bought about 2 cases of older wine from a closing winery and have found that every other bottle i have opened has a soggy or mildewed cork. I drove back with a few bottles to replace, thinking it was bad luck and the vintners were fine replacing the bottles. However, after more bad corks, I am inclined to take the foil off the rest and check them so i can make just one trip for replacements and or refund. I would also want to take foil off any replacements before leaving as it is about 60 miles one way. My questions are.. Does the foil matter that much for preservation? Does it matter if I plan to drink the wine within a year? Is there any way 20+ year old wine could be good with wet cork or mildew on top of cork?

Screw tops can't come fast enough!

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  1. Soggy, mildewed corks in French wines were normal back in the early 70s up until probably about mid 80's. Something happened after that ( PR? Importers' pressure?) that forced wineries to clean their act ( no pun intended ). However, I don't remember ever associating soggy/mildewed corks with bad juice inside the bottle.

    1. I've had lots of good wines from bottles with soggy corks and/or mold on the top. Neither's a particularly bad sign so long as the fill is still good.

      I've been having problems with dry corks in the ~20-year-old Semillon I bought a case of in January.

      1. "Does the foil matter that much for preservation?"

        No, but it may keep mice and other rodents from chewing at the corks.

        1. Soggy and/or moldy corks (as long as the mold is on TOP of the cork) mean nothing vis-a-vis the quality of what's inside.

          3 Replies
          1. re: zin1953

            Ok I am going to try and be specific. My idea is that the cork is to keep most air out of the wine to prevent among other things, oxidation. Doesn't a shrunken wet, cork mean air has been introduced? I am confused!

            However, and here is my dilemma, some of the wine tastes great, and others like grape juice squeezed thru old shoes. I am talking about same wine, same vintage. I now get the idea of a back-up bottle.

            Should I just accept the dice roll with this purchase and move on? I was going to write to the vintners but thought about getting some outside counsel first.


            1. re: budnball

              " some of the wine tastes great, and others like grape juice squeezed thru old shoes. I am talking about same wine, same vintage. "

              With that significant amount of inconsistency/bottle variation, I would opt out.

              Good luck.

              1. re: budnball

                If air is getting into the bottle due to a leaky cork, the fill will go down. Low fill doesn't always mean the wine is bad, but it's more likely to be.

                If the winery will replace bad bottles, take advantage of that.

            2. Hi, buddnball:

              Not enough information...

              Is there any correlation between the bad bottles and visible mould? Do you see any veins that would indicate wrinkles in the corks? What kind of cork and what age the wine? Did the vintner order his cork based on the precise mold # from the glassmaker (this matters)? Were the corks either fresh or re-humidified, or had they come from a dusty cardboard carton bought years before? Are the corks from the bad bottles swelled along their full length?

              A good neck/cork match and decent cellaring should not result in a cork being swelled full-length until very late in its life--at a minimum 7-10 years. Even short, crappy colimated/agglomerated cork should last several years.

              Remove the foil if you want. You can shrink-wrap new ones on after sorting.

              What I'd do is go back to the vintner, and say: "Gee, I like the good bottles, but 30% are spoiled. How about selling me a few more cases at a 30% discount?"


              8 Replies
              1. re: kaleokahu

                All the wines are 15-20 years old. Cab Franc, Semillion and Merlot. I have no idea how they chose the corks. They dont look swelled, they look saturated and shrunken. I can easliy push the corks down the bottle neck with my finger and have to use a 2 prong corkscrew instead of an actual screwtype to avoid this happening. No correlation between visable mold and taste except once when the moldy cork was pushed into bottle while openning.

                1. re: budnball

                  I find slippery corks getting pushed into the bottle a fairly common problem with old wines. A very sharp, thin, ideally Teflon-coated screw with a largeish bore is best for avoiding that.

                  1. re: budnball

                    Well then. Depending on price, winery and vintage, you may want to take what you get and like what % of sound wine you get. A sound Semillon at that age is worth a few discards.

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      Agreed! The Semillon is fabulous. when looking back, I think the bad bottles may have been ones where the moldy cork tops came in contact with wine (many pushed thru while trying to open). Robert's suggestion of a different corkscrew should take care of that.

                      I guess I just get grossed out by the idea of mold and react rather emotionally. Thanx all.

                      1. re: budnball

                        I am a bit confused. Your original post mentioned mildew as the problem, not mold. When you mentioned mildew I thought that may actually be indicative of TCA taint. Now you have mentioned mold. Are both mildew and mold the issue?

                        1. re: Fowler

                          Sorry bout that. I have the two terms muddled in my head. Not sure off difference. What I am describing is on the top of the cork and sometimes on the inner foil. Usually greenish and damp.

                          1. re: budnball

                            Mold on the top of a cork of an old bottle is very common. It can look pretty gross but that's no indication that anything's wrong with the wine. Just wipe or wash it off before uncorking.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston


                              I agree. A damp bartender's towel is a good thing to have with an older bottle of wine - both red, or white.

                              However, there CAN be issues with a cork, and what one sees can be a manifestation of some potential problems.

                              In Arizona, I find more issues with desiccated corks, and bottles that the distributor, or retailer stored upright, to be a bigger issue - oxidized wines.

                              I now refuse to buy any older white Burgs from one prime distributor, as the wines will almost always be oxidized, well before their time.