The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

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Eric Lundblad
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The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#1 Post by Eric Lundblad » March 13th, 2012, 2:20 pm

While going through my cellar, I noticed something possibly concerning with my 02 D'Angerville Clos des Ducs': Looking up under the foil, I saw the cork was lower than expected. Ripped off the foil of one of the bottles and sure enough...the cork is depressed ~1/16 inch (1.6mm) down from the top of the bottle, the cork is soaked up the sides and the ullage is ~3/8 inch (9.5mm) from the bottom of the cork. Should I be worried? Should I drink them before they're really ready (something I'd rather not do). Clearly they got a bit of warmth...but often times the fill can be so high that this doesn't mean the wine is overly affected...but the depressed cork worries me.
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#2 Post by AAgrawal » March 13th, 2012, 2:22 pm

It sounds like you're talking about multiple bottles? If you're worried and you have a lot, it may put your mind at ease to try one.
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#3 Post by Eric Lundblad » March 13th, 2012, 2:34 pm

Thanks Ashish...makes sense. That will tell me if there's any overt heat damage...but not necessarily if it will age normally (in the case that no heat damage is obvious). It's a hard question to answer...perhaps someone has experience along these lines?
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#4 Post by K John Joseph » March 13th, 2012, 3:29 pm

Whats the humidity level of your cellar?
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#5 Post by JKim » March 13th, 2012, 3:34 pm

K John Joseph wrote:Whats the humidity level of your cellar?
I always wondered about this. Does humidity level really make that much of a difference, say 40% vs 70%?
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#6 Post by Jim Schultze » March 13th, 2012, 3:40 pm

Eric, I would interpret this differently. I have found with our corking machine (integrated part of our bottling line), we will occasionally get a cork which is slightly less dense than average, and it will depress slightly lower than average (or you can get this with a run of corks). Also, over time a less dense cork can more easily soak up the side since it is not as tight a fit. It sounds like your bottles have a smaller ullage than is really desirable, but in this situation if you had heat damage I would have expected the corks to be pushed out slightly. FWIW, bottom line, I'd wait until the ideal drinking window.
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#7 Post by Eric Lundblad » March 13th, 2012, 11:24 pm

K John and Kim: The humidity is generally pretty good...rarely below 60% (stored in West Oakland, so naturally humid), so don't think that's a factor (esp given the stain on the cork). Very low humidity can increase the ullage, but only a very long time I believe.

Jim: I get the same variation in cork level during bottling as well. This could be the issue with the Ducs, but seems further down than I'd expect for that and it appears to be an issue with all the bottles (which also seems odd). I'll probably open a bottle the next chance I get...then will take your advice and wait on the rest.

Thanks for the comments.
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#8 Post by Lewis Dawson » March 14th, 2012, 12:58 am

FWIW, my '99 Ducsters are the same, and I'm not worried. I happened to notice this just today, a few hours ago, a strange coincidence.
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#9 Post by Nathan L » March 14th, 2012, 4:10 am

Jim Schultze wrote:Eric, I would interpret this differently. I have found with our corking machine (integrated part of our bottling line), we will occasionally get a cork which is slightly less dense than average, and it will depress slightly lower than average (or you can get this with a run of corks). Also, over time a less dense cork can more easily soak up the side since it is not as tight a fit. It sounds like your bottles have a smaller ullage than is really desirable, but in this situation if you had heat damage I would have expected the corks to be pushed out slightly. FWIW, bottom line, I'd wait until the ideal drinking window.
Thanks for this note jim. I always wonder how much to worry about depressed corks. In particular, i have noticed certain vintages from a producer that appear depressed across many bottles. If you assessment is correct i wonder if this will let more air in and affect the ageing differently?
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#10 Post by Jim Schultze » March 14th, 2012, 8:57 am

Nathan, you raise an interesting question that I hadn't thought about before. It seems plausible to me that cork density would impact oxygen permeability, which in turn would affect aging. This may explain some of the variability in older bottles of wine.
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#11 Post by Poppy Davis » March 14th, 2012, 9:14 am

JKim wrote:
K John Joseph wrote:Whats the humidity level of your cellar?
I always wondered about this. Does humidity level really make that much of a difference, say 40% vs 70%?
Yes, absolutely. I definitely see the difference in wines from various cellars with various humidity levels. Over the very long haul, you will see more cork degredation in cellars with lower humidity levels.
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#12 Post by Andrew Morris » March 14th, 2012, 9:28 am

Jim Schultze wrote:Eric, I would interpret this differently. I have found with our corking machine (integrated part of our bottling line), we will occasionally get a cork which is slightly less dense than average, and it will depress slightly lower than average (or you can get this with a run of corks). Also, over time a less dense cork can more easily soak up the side since it is not as tight a fit. It sounds like your bottles have a smaller ullage than is really desirable, but in this situation if you had heat damage I would have expected the corks to be pushed out slightly. FWIW, bottom line, I'd wait until the ideal drinking window.
+1.

Heat would cause expansion causing the cork to push out, not in.

We had our corker go down in the middle of bottling. We borrowed a corker that was OK, but there was a lot of variation in the cork depth. Half of the corks are down a bit, since we did not want any sticking up.

While I generally agree with Jim, I think other variables besides cork density affect cork depth. In our case, from what I can tell, it was the mechanism of the corker having some play in it, so it did not perform exactly the same with each cork.

Bottom line, I'd ignore cork depth in terms of how you assess those bottles, unless there is one that is much farther in than the rest, it which case it could be soft, or undersized which might affect the seal.
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Re: The cork is depressed...should I be as well?

#13 Post by Eric Lundblad » March 14th, 2012, 2:10 pm

Lewis Dawson wrote:FWIW, my '99 Ducsters are the same, and I'm not worried. I happened to notice this just today, a few hours ago, a strange coincidence.
Interesting...sounds like this might be a standard thing, or not uncommon, for D'Angerville. Thanks for the confirmation Lewis.
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