Ask Wine Wizard

I’ve heard both “yes” and “no” on soaking corks before bottling… So to soak or not to soak?


Jack Anders • Lindenwold, New Jersey asks,

I’ve heard both “yes” and “no” on soaking corks before bottling. All of the commercial wineries I’ve visited don’t soak their corks before bottling. Can you set us straight on whether to soak or not to soak?

No commercial wineries that I’ve worked with soak their corks before bottling because it’s not necessary for larger-scale businesses. Commercial wineries buy corks by the thousands from reputable companies with high turnover. They buy full bags and only order enough for their scheduled bottling runs, ensuring that small excess quantities aren’t left over to dry out, get dusty and become unusable over time. They ensure that their suppliers (the cork companies) test for moisture content, screen for TCA and spoilage microbes and deliver fresh, clean, ready-to-use corks. The corks come right out of the hermetically sealed, sulfur-dioxide sparged, factory-packed plastic bag. The problem for small-scale and boutique winemakers is that it can be harder (not to mention more expensive, since they can’t match a big winery’s economy of scale) to procure such a high quality and consistent cork supply. This is probably, in a roundabout way, the reason why many small operations continue to soak their corks even in the face of better overall cork quality. Finding the reason is as easy as answering the following question: Who tends to
Response by Alison Crowe.