By Kevin Farrell

USA TODAY 10Best

How to tell if your wine has gone bad

It can be a bit of a head-scratcher trying to figure out whether or not an older wine is still any good. Here are a few tips for how to tell if a bottle is still okay to drink.

The first thing to inspect when checking the freshness of an older bottle is the cork. The aerial view of your cork should appear swollen and full, completely expanded into the neck of the bottle.

From the front, corks should appear uniform in shape and somewhere approaching two inches in length. Anything shorter than an inch and a half suggests a broken seal.

The top of your cork should be supple and firm to the touch. A cork that turns to sand upon contact has likewise been compromised.

The thin band of space between the cork and the wine in a bottle that is standing vertically can tell you plenty about what’s going on. This space, called ullage, should look like a narrow gap.

It should be limited entirely to the mid-to-high neck of the bottle. If you see ullage dipping into the base of the neck or the shoulder, that’s really bad news.

Recent leakage is the very best you can hope for here, but a more likely explanation is that evaporation or oxidation has occurred. We hate to break it to you, but your wine is toast.

Wine will almost certainly spoil in high temperatures. So if your wine fridge dies out during an Arizona summer without you realizing it for a few weeks, your wine has likely turned on you.

Doing an Internet search prior to uncorking a vintage bottle can help set expectations. Reading feedback from people who also recently enjoyed the same bottle can give you something to compare against.

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