Monday, October 7, 2013

Would you drink wine with a moldy cork?

I bet your answer is no, and mine was too until recently.  A few weeks ago I pulled this great bottle of Rioja out of my wine fridge and was disappointed to see mold growing out of the holes in the foil.  I had bought the bottle a couple of years ago and had stored it properly that whole time.  My first thought was to throw it out or return it to the store and ask to exchange it, but I decided to do a little research first.  

It turns out that mold on the outside of the cork is not a problem, and may even be a good thing.  The presence of mold between the cork and the foil suggests there was a good deal of humidity present when the foil was put on the bottle at the winery.  Humidity is good because dry air can contribute to a cork drying out.  Dry corks shrink, then leak, letting wine out and/or too much oxygen in.  My bottle was a Rioja Reserva, and in Spain the term “reserva” has a specific meaning:  this wine was aged at the winery for at least 3 years.  Mold on the cork just means that it was aged in humid conditions, then over time a little mold grew where some moisture was trapped between the cork and the foil.  

If you come across a moldy cork, just wipe off the mold with a damp towel and open the bottle as you normally would.  Examine the end of the cork next to the wine – mold on THAT end is cause for concern.  If the mold was all on the top, drink away!  I wiped the top of the opened bottle again before pouring, just to be sure the mold was gone.  My Rioja Riserva tasted just as good as I remembered.  I’m so glad I didn’t throw it out!

P.S.  The moldy cork issue is different from the wine being “corked.”  Stay tuned for more on corked wine at a future date…

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