Fellow wine lovers, join me as I lament a very serious problem. For the past few months, I've been experiencing a cork crisis. Dry corks, corks with rot, corks that split in half and fall into chunks... I've seen 'em all.
Now, I must clarify. The wines I buy at specialty stores and gourmet shops don't have this problem. But my regular, just-running-in-for-a-Cab, corner grocery store has been selling me bottles that have cork problems.
The reason for this is perhaps too simple: storage. How you store and display a wine really impacts the corks. It's pretty easy, but I'll go slow. If you stand the bottle up, the wine isn't touching the cork, and so it dries out. If you lay it on its side, the wine does touch the cork. In fact, it marinades it, bathes it, saddles up next to it. This keeps the cork more moist. I know it's hard to wrap your head around; keeping something in contact with a liquid means moisture.
So my advice is store your wine horizontally as soon as possible. Maybe let it sit there for a week like that. Or, if you must uncork, keep a coffee filter around and strain the wine through that to catch any stray cork debris. Maybe buy bottles without real cork, using plastic instead or a screw top. Or don't buy your wine at a place that keeps it standing up.