In any wine that has been stopped with natural cork, a small percentage of bottles will be “corked”–tainted by chemicals that naturally occur in the cork, resulting in a bitter, acrid taste. In a restaurant, of course, you’d send the bottle back after tasting it. But what to do when you buy a bottle from a merchant and later discover cork taint?

In general, you should return it, say hounds. The seller will probably gladly replace your tainted bottle–as long as you haven’t drunk half of it! The exception is if you have bought an old, rare bottle. The rule with these bottles is understood to be “buyer beware,” says WineTravel. Old wines are always a bit of a crapshoot, and if you buy, you must keep in mind the possibility that you may end up pouring tainted wine down the drain.

When returning tainted wine, keep in mind that most states have “open container” laws–drive with the wine in the trunk.

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