I went a little nuts on Saturday and bought a bunch of wine, right before the July Wine Sale ended (don't worry, the August Wine Sale is coming soon check Binnys.com on August 11th). Buying wine is usually an exciting thing, but this time it caused a slight problem. When I arrived at home with the new bottles, it became apparent that they would put me squarely above the capacity of my little wine fridge.

   So I did the geekiest thing possible: I pulled all the wine out of there and sat on the floor, surrounded by bottles. I cataloged them, ranked them based on price, ageability, sentimental value and immediate openability (!) and put most of them back in the fridge. Which left me with more than a half dozen bottles that needed to be opened RIGHT NOW and a promise to myself to enjoy more wine in the future, instead of packing it away.

   Basically, it was a nice, relaxing Saturday afternoon.

   A casualty of this manuever was the three bottles of 2005 Ch des Judes Bordeaux that didn't make the cut; inexpensive Bordeaux now in what I guess is its drinking prime. Plus, this wine seemed like it would be a good choice to pair with that evening's planned dinner an easy meal of cauliflower & cheese and wilted spinach with mushrooms and onions.

   So I opened a bottle, poured a glass, sniffed. I noticed a strong presence of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole.

   The wine was corked. Corked into oblivion.

   Don't cry over spilled milk, right? I had two more bottles of the stuff, so another cork was popped and another glass was filled. Smelling with more caution this time, I was met with hot plum and raspberry, weedy ditch rot, char; not really my idea of a good time. It struck me as similar to wines that I knew had spent too long in warm closets or near heating elements, slightly roasted. I figured that this is just about how this wine is, so I sat down to eat, tasting the Bordeaux again and deciding that maybe dinner would be okay without wine. My fiancee offered similar tasting notes, but being the eternal optimist that she is, suggested that we open the third bottle.

   It was Goldilocks. Or close - not exactly "just right," but as good as this particular wine could be, I think. The fruit lifted in weight closer to cherries with a little plum, the earthiness backed off but the tannins still apparent, offering support. A compact and well-rounded little wine, nothing spectacular but nothing glaringly wrong, either.

   What really struck me as funny about this experience is that the bottles were numbered: the corked wine bottle #89519, the burnt wine #89525, and the good wine #89522. As far as I can guess, these bottles have had identical existences since the moment the labels got stuck on there. They came here in the same box, warehouse to boat to truck to Binny's, in the same bag as I carried them up to my apartment and crammed them into my wine fridge where they waited the months until I ran out of space. All three wines were finished with the same cheap composite corks. Yet they turned out so differently.

   Is there a moral to this story? First, though I can't be certain that the cheap corks are to blame, I look forward to the day when wine is finished under enclosures that don't risk damaging the juice they're supposed to protect. That's not meant as a dig at at all corks, but at least those tacky, low-grade composite corks.

   Second, don't settle for crappy wine, not ever. If it's flawed, there has got to be something better close at hand.