I can recall only one occasion where an older bottle showed signs of seepage but still turned out to be drinkable. Obvious seepage, or signs of sticky residue under the capsule, seems like it's usually a kiss of death. Is there such a thing as seepage that's NOT necessarily a bad thing?

Does it make a difference if it's an 20-year old Bordeaux versus a Port? I've got a few 77 vintage Ports that are showing the signs, and it probably started years ago, before I acquired them.

I even see plenty of bottles in auctions or on retail web sites that are described as showing signs of seepage, yet they are still priced quite high in some cases -- are people actually buying these bottles?
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I never really worry about Rieslings leaking, they just do. Ports not so sure and red wine is usually a bad sign.


quote:
Originally posted by pierre à fusil:
I can recall only one occasion where an older bottle showed signs of seepage but still turned out to be drinkable. Obvious seepage, or signs of sticky residue under the capsule, seems like it's usually a kiss of death. Is there such a thing as seepage that's NOT necessarily a bad thing?

Does it make a difference if it's an 20-year old Bordeaux versus a Port? I've got a few 77 vintage Ports that are showing the signs, and it probably started years ago, before I acquired them.

I even see plenty of bottles in auctions or on retail web sites that are described as showing signs of seepage, yet they are still priced quite high in some cases -- are people actually buying these bottles?
I've had bottles purchased from mailing lists that showed signs of slight seepage due to over filling, and those wines were all good, including a magnum of Blue Slide Ridge!
ditto.

no such luck with "regular" red wines tho.

quote:
Originally posted by steve8:
I've had several bottles of vintage port that were seeping and they were fine.
quote:
Originally posted by pierre à fusil:
Is there such a thing as seepage that's NOT necessarily a bad thing?


Clearly from the comments above there are times when we get lucky and no obvious harm results. But I can tell you for certain that it's never a good thing.

If I notice seepage, that bottle gets consumed within the next few days. That way, I am still able to sleep at night. Smile
quote:
Originally posted by steve8:
I've had several bottles of vintage port that were seeping and they were fine.

Ditto.
When sourcing aged wines I never consider anything with any signs of seepage. The one exception to that rule is aged port. I've purchased several bottles with, and without signs of seepage, and never had an issue.

Personally, I would never consider purchasing a bottle of red wine showing signs of seepage.
As Seaquam notes, seepage is never a good thing, but often it does not affect the wine. However, the impact that it may have probably increases over time as it can / will saturate the cork, and therefore deteriorates the cork. Also, and perhaps more importantly, a leaky cork can be CAUSED in a variety of ways, and some are more damaging than others:

Generally, leaky corks result from (1) Defective corks or glass; (2) Positive pressure inside the bottle.

Regarding defective corks or glass, glass can be out of round or sized improperly (there were reports of some Chinese glass last year that was supplied and the labels couldn't be put on straight; I'm not sure how "true" the necks were, didn't hear any reports of corking issues). Cork is a natural product, so it is possible to have defects or blemishes in the cork (usually just an individual one) that may case a bottle to seep.

However, the more frequent source of seepage is positive pressure in the bottle. This can be caused by temperature; bottling line vacuum pump malfunction or incorrect setting; fill height; and Brett or other biological activity in the bottle. The below link may be of interest to techno-geeks that want to know more about the process of bottling and the resulting cork performance.

http://www.corkqc.com/qcguidelines/qc.htm

When wine is corked, there is a vacuum pump on the corking machine that draws a vacuum so that when the cork is inserted, no (or little) positive pressure is inside the bottle. On the other hand, if the vacuum pump "overperforms" it will be difficult to get the cork out of the bottle.

If, for whatever reason, positive pressure is inside the bottle, and the bottle is immediately placed on its side or cork down in the case, the pressure can / will force the wine to bleed either around the cork, or into the cork. Cork companies recommend that the wine be stored in cases "cork up" for 30 to 90-days to allow the cork to properly seat against the glass, and for pressure to bleed out of the bottle if it exists. In this regard, at Le Cadeau we have moved away from layflat cases, and we bottle cork up, then turn all the cases over 60 to 90-days after bottling. It is more costly, but it is the recommended way to do things.

Of course, if the pressure in the bottle is caused by Brett, or other biological activity, then the wine is unstable, and likely will not drink well. This situation, however, is not really about glass, corks, bottling or storage temp, it's about winemaking... But the result will likely be bad wine, but don't blame it on the cork.

Temperature and fill height is also a factor. If there is variation in the temperature of the wine it will create pressure changes in the bottle. Obviously excessive heat will cause a bottle of wine to leak... and clearly heat is a bad sign, and likely will impact the wine... but again, it should not be blamed on the cork.
However, less damaging situations can occur if the wine is bottled at one temp, and potentially at the wrong fill height, but then is stored at an appropriate, but different temperature. Again, the result is pressure inside the bottle, and seepage can occur.

So, with all that as background, I can positively conclude that the answer to the question is: "It depends".
Great input TM. Thanks. It's too bad our schedules didn't line up last week in OR, but we had a great time out there. Beautiful area, excellent wines and we will return.
I'd never buy a wine with seepage, with the possible exception of a greatly reduced cost and a willingness to accept the chance it might be madeirized.

If I ever discover a bottle beginning to ooze, I open it at my earliest convenience. I've had a couple that were madeirized and a couple that surprised me with their high quality.
It depends on why it the wine is seeping. Cork weakness or fill? I just took delivery of a case of 1985 Loire wines with impossibly high fills (removed from original cellar). Some of the wines leaked in transit. The wines will be fine.

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