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All of Your Wine Questions Answered

It seems like the internet is loaded with crazy ideas of how to make something better. Rub warts with garlic to remove them. Use newspaper to clean your glasses. Put butter on burns. Use hairspray to clean ink stains. Eat chocolate to improve your sex life. You got a problem, there’s a cure in your cupboard.

Wine has its cures, too. We hear them in what we call the “Is-it-true questions.” Here are a few we recently heard at just one public tasting we moderated:

Is it true that a raisin will restore the bubbles to a sparkling wine that has gone flat?

The web is loaded with references to this science trick – it was even demonstrated on the “Today” show. But responsible publications have sorted out the truth: raisins, because of their odd and wrinkled shape, can activate what carbon dioxide is left in a glass – but they can’t create more carbon dioxide.

We tried this experiment ourselves. Even CPR couldn’t revive a sparkling wine left open for longer than an hour. Yes, a raisin dropped in a glass an hour after the sparkling wine was poured made the bubbles dance a little, but it was all about the show and not the wine. And we pity anyone at a party who has to explain why there is a raisin in his glass.

Others say putting a spoon works better than a raisin.

The bottom line: Drink the sparkling wine before it goes flat.

Is it true that adding a penny to a corked wine will eliminate the offending flavors?

Early in our wine education days, we were at a lunch when a winemaker poured a wine that had obvious cork taint – a chemical process that takes place after a bottle is sealed with a bad cork.

A distributor wanted to save the wine and his client’s face and dropped a penny from his pocket into the expensive wine. We cringed but humored the desperate man and tried the wine. It tasted like a dirty penny.

We also have read that a wad of plastic wrap will restore a corked wine. Indeed, polyethylene will remove trichloroanisole (cork taint) from wine but it also removes the aromatics and other positive elements.

Nothing will save a cork-tainted wine -- period. However, a copper penny may eliminate a stinky sulfur component in a wine that suffers from a fermentation flaw called “reduction.” This flaw produces a compound called mercaptans that makes a wine taste sulfuric – think a freshly lit match – or like burnt rubber. Mercaptans won’t harm you, but you’re not going to like a stinky wine.

Copper can absorb mercaptans. However, coins minted after 1982 are mostly zinc. Maybe a piece of copper piping would work better than a coin. But we pity even more the guy walking around with an old penny or a hunk of copper pipe in his glass.