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I ripped the seal on a wine bottle by accident. Is there a way to have something else cover the cork?

Michael Walker/iStockphoto

The question

Today by accident I ripped the seal on a bottle and I want to know: Is there a way to have something else cover the cork?

The answer

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Accidents happen, but this is not one to worry about – unless it's an expensive bottle that you intend to resell. Capsules that cover the top of most bottles sealed with cork are purely decorative. Originally they were intended to keep insects and vermin from gnawing at the cork in dungeon-like cellars. So long as you have no rodent or major insect problems, you have nothing to worry about.

Long ago, those capsules were often made of lead foil, a toxic substance that poses a problem for landfills. Another traditional seal, wax, is still occasionally used. But today most are made either of aluminum or plastic. To save costs and spare the planet from a recycling burden, some wineries are doing away with seals altogether. One could argue that the capsule in fact comes with a drawback because there's no way to tell whether the cork has developed a serious mould problem until the capsule is removed. A little bit of mould at the top shouldn't hurt the cork, but in some cases it can eat more deeply and compromise the seal, either by letting in too much oxygen or transmitting mould to the wine itself.

If you intend to resell the bottle, it's an issue because most prospective buyers like to have an intact bottle to be sure you haven't pulled the cork, siphoned off the pricy wine and replaced it all with something fraudulent. In that case, though, it won't help to cover the cork with a makeshift seal of your own creation.

Whatever you do (and I would suggest doing nothing), don't cover the bottleneck with something made of paper. That would only invite mould if your cellar is very humid or if your bottle is stored within about 20 centimetres of an exposed-brick basement wall.

The Flavour Principle by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol (HarperCollins) won top prize for best general English cookbook at the 2014 Taste Canada Food Writing Awards.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

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