Success with leaking corks, but sound wine?

How often do you open a bottle with a stained/sticky/wet cork and find that the wine is perfectly fine?

Backstory: purchased an 05 Zin from KL recently. Leaking cork. KL said they’d take it back, but I’m debating just opening it as I’d really like to try the wine, assuming it’s sound, of course.

Thoughts? [cheers.gif]

For me, I’ve had typically good success. However, the wines in question are almost always from producers known for over-filling the bottles. If it were me, it would depend on a few factors. First, if the leakage is recent, and I planned to open it soon anyways then I would just keep it. Second, how much of a pita is it to return the one bottle and how much money are we talking about? My time is worth something too.


I’ll somewhat echo what Pat had to say - depends somewhat upon how much you have in and how much of a hassle it may be to return.

On the other hand, what is K and L suggesting - to return for a credit or? If they are ‘okay’ with you taking pictures, opening and assessing, then you have nothing to lose, right?

One of the ‘challenges’ here is that you will probably be pre-disposed to ‘question’ the wine, even if it is sound, because of the leaking cork. If that is the case, I would probably return / get credit and move on.

To answer the general question, though - I have found that wines have been a lot more ‘durable’ than most folks give them credit for - even with leaking corks , ,


I received a shipment from Arnot-Roberts that contained a bottle of wine with a hairline crack that had leaked a bit of wine, and was caught in the styrofoam shipper.
The wine was the 2013 Legan Vineyard (Santa Cruz Mountains) Pinot Noir. I pulled the cork and tasted the wine. It was wonderfully bright and inviting.

I opened an 2008 Leroy Bourgogne Blanc last week that Southern had closed out years ago for about $7/btl wholesale. The puffy, ballooned capsule was covering a sticky, orange mess of a cork that reeked of maderized wine. Uncorked I could see moisture running up the full length of the closure, and I was sure I’d be pouring myself a glass of acrid turkey brodo. Despite everything, the wine was perhaps the best version of this bottling I’d ever had. Lithe fruit, all lemon curd, stones and white flowers, and lengthy with good sappiness and freshness. A really superb wine, and simply divine with our fried artichokes.

My experience is that all the flawed or defective wines I’ve had have come from bottles with pristine corks.

I’ve had duds with stained/sticky corks and duds with pristine looking corks. A stained/sticky cork doesn’t seem to be as good a predictor of a poor bottle as a low fill. But even some low fills turn out great. It’s like Forrest Gump’s momma used to say: “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Leroy is a poster child for the chronic over-filler. While bottles without the bulge exist, I don’t worry too much about bottles with the bulge so long as I can assess the provenance with some sense of surety.


A 1986 Lynch Bages that had been exported to Puerto Rico, then to the UK and eventually purchased through auction sticks out in memory. Mid shoulder fill and the whole capsule was a total mess. I had very low hopes, but it turned out to be sensational. Color me surprised.

I was at a dinner on Saturday with about 10 Bordeauxs from the 70s. The host didn’t decant them because the corks were in such bad shape that he was afraid the wines would be teetering on the edge or oxidized.

He opened a backup bottle, assuming one of the main wines would be shot. They were all fine, and most were excellent. The pristine backup bottle? Corked!

I just took my wines out of storage where they had been for 6 years. They were all stored upside down the entire time. All of the wines did fine except for my Merkelbachs – some of the Germans use really cheap corks. Anyway – opened an '01 Auslese and it was fresh as a daisy despite a fill that was a good 2" below the cork.

Opened a Boulay SB a couple weeks ago with a leaking cork, the wine was brilliant. But if it was expensive I probably would not take a chance and return it if possible.

I am along with the crowd here. Wet corks don’t seem to be an indicator of flawed wine. The best indicator I know of a potentially flawed wine is White wine from Burgundy:-)

I agree, I’ve had wines with leaking corks that have been sound. However, signs of past seepage is alway a no-go for me for wines on auction. Maybe I shouldn’t be so rigid.


Yeah – I don’t mind seeing a cork issue when I know the wine has been in my possession for many years. At auction, that’s another issue altogether…

Leaking corks can happen because the cork is faulty to some degree and it does not necessarily compromise the wine. But, it can obviously also be because someone left it in their car on a 100 degree day…

Sweet german riesling is notorious for this, especially in larger format, and not necessarily indicative of any issue.

I had a ‘10 Mag of Arnot Roberts Vare Vnyd Cab Sauv that I noticed was leaking back in 2013. I brought it to Falltacular last year (4 years after the fact) and it was fine.


More often than not.

I wonder if it’s the same 2005 Zin I got from K&L recently - Scott Harvey white label. We had one…it was in good shape even though the cork crumbled.
And in general, I’ve found the soundness of the cork to be a pretty poor predictor of the soundness of the wine. I’ve had very very few flawed bottles and the vast majority of them had sound corks.