The following appeared in a recent post:

"the cork on the 1990 dunn crumbled when he tried to pull it out, so storage was most likely the issue."

What does storage have to do with cork condition? I mean, aside from the point that if the cork does not remain wet, it will likely shrink and allow air to enter the bottle.

I would think that crumbling or not crumbling depends mostly on the quality of the cork selected by the bottler.

I searched this topic and could not find any previous answer to the question. Thanks in advance.
Original Post
quote:
Originally posted by differentdave:
NOt enough humidity during cellaring of bottle will cause the cork to dry out and shrink. This in turn will let more oxygen in to the bottle. So yu wind up with bad wine and a bad cork.


Maybe. However, if the ullage is OK on a bottle and the cork still crumbles, the wine is probably fine. If the ullage is below the shoulder and the cork crumbles, probably some humidity/cork issues.
In my experience, exposure to heat will cause cork "crumblage." When I first delved into this lifestyle, I inherited 12 magnums of various varietals/vintages, mostly 1988-98. Before taking possession of these from my parents, the bottles were stored in their garage in Northern California (during the summer). Almost all the corks crumbled upon contact with the opener, and all but a few were ruined.
quote:
Originally posted by csquared78:
In my experience, exposure to heat will cause cork "crumblage." When I first delved into this lifestyle, I inherited 12 magnums of various varietals/vintages, mostly 1988-98. Before taking possession of these from my parents, the bottles were stored in their garage in Northern California (during the summer). Almost all the corks crumbled upon contact with the opener, and all but a few were ruined.


Were the bottles standing up or on their sides?
I disagree with all of the opinions above.

Except Doublestop's, which is eminently rational.

Corks crumble almost exclusively due to the structure of their grain. Even the highest grade corks can have undetected anomolies that cause crumbling, but I associate crumbling most commonly with low grade corks.

I have never seen a cork fail because it was "dried out."
quote:
Originally posted by chaad:
I disagree with all of the opinions above.

Except Doublestop's, which is eminently rational.

Corks crumble almost exclusively due to the structure of their grain. Even the highest grade corks can have undetected anomolies that cause crumbling, but I associate crumbling most commonly with low grade corks.

I have never seen a cork fail because it was "dried out."


I will disagree with you here...since there are many reasons that a cork could crumble (heat, humidity, other poor storage conditions, wine standing up, poor cork composition, etc.), without doing scientific forensics on the cork there is no way of telling why. It is all speculation.

By the way, I have had a 1989 Dunn HM that was wax sealed and the wax was dried out, as hard as cement and the cork was dry and crumbly. The wine was not totally bad but you could tell it was off. Now by the condition of the wax, I would not attribute the crumbly cork to poor cork composition. And Randy Dunn is NOT known for cutting corners.

As was stated, if it crumbles, pull it out the best you can and taste the wine for yourself to determine the quality of the wine.
Inky,

Yes, it is impossible to know without "scientific forensics" on the cork, yet above, everyone is talking about low humidity/drying out. Why? How the hell do the know?

Anyway, corks are dried to about 4%-7% humidity (relative humidity? I dunno) during production. It's pretty hard to imagine any ambient conditions being drier than that, unless you live in the high desert somewhere. I really think that cork drying is a myth. Add to that the anecdotal evidence of trouble free upright storage and you've got some real problems defending dried out cork as a failure mode.

quote:
Originally posted by inky:
quote:
Originally posted by chaad:
I disagree with all of the opinions above.

Except Doublestop's, which is eminently rational.

Corks crumble almost exclusively due to the structure of their grain. Even the highest grade corks can have undetected anomolies that cause crumbling, but I associate crumbling most commonly with low grade corks.

I have never seen a cork fail because it was "dried out."


I will disagree with you here...since there are many reasons that a cork could crumble (heat, humidity, other poor storage conditions, wine standing up, poor cork composition, etc.), without doing scientific forensics on the cork there is no way of telling why. It is all speculation.

By the way, I have had a 1989 Dunn HM that was wax sealed and the wax was dried out, as hard as cement and the cork was dry and crumbly. The wine was not totally bad but you could tell it was off. Now by the condition of the wax, I would not attribute the crumbly cork to poor cork composition. And Randy Dunn is NOT known for cutting corners.

As was stated, if it crumbles, pull it out the best you can and taste the wine for yourself to determine the quality of the wine.
According to wine cellar designer Paul Wyatt, "Fortified wines such as Sherry, Port, and Madeira should be stored upright because the high alcohol content will also damage the cork." I've certainly heard conflicting advice on this matter, but my limited experience has supported Paul Wyatt's view. When I've opened aged port (1970 and 1977) that was stored on its side, the cork was amazingly soft, and it crumbled terribly. Same-vintage ports stored upright (at least since I've owned them) faired moderately better. ?
I can't find the thread but I have heard the same thing on some of the super sweet wines. I had spoken to a retailer who had been selling German rieslings, Tokaji etc for 20-30 years and he said that wines with super high sugar levels (think Aszu Essencia or true Ezssencia) should be stored upright as the sugar corrodes the cork. Haven't heard a definitive answer- if anyone knows please let me know as I have a few bottles of these and right now they are on their side.
quote:
Originally posted by Markiemark:
The only crumbling corks I've run across were on aged vintage ports. The wines were fine but had to be strained several times.

Since they were stored with many others in cellar conditions, I had to assume it was the cork, not the conditions.


Undoubtedly the more advanced age of the Ports is a factor, but, now that you mention it, my Ports often have deteriorating corks.

I'm gong to posit that low humidity cannot possibly be a contributor. All organic materials keep longer in low humidity. Mummies, for example? Wood in arid climates?

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