Recently, a number of cases of smuggling dissolved cocaine in wine bottles have been reported. The aim of the present study was to determine whether cocaine dissolved in wine can be detected by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H MRS) on a standard clinical MR scanner, in intact (i.e. unopened) wine bottles. 1H MRS experiments were performed with a 3 Tesla clinical scanner on wine phantoms with or without cocaine contamination. The aromatic protons of cocaine displayed resonance peaks in the 7–8 ppm region of the spectrum, where no overlapping resonances of wine were present. Additional cocaine resonances were detected in the 2–3 ppm region of the spectrum, between the resonances of ethanol and other wine constituents. Detection of cocaine in wine (at 5 mM, i.e. ∼1.5 g/L) was feasible in a scan time of 1 min. We conclude that dissolved cocaine can be detected in intact wine bottles, on a standard clinical MR scanner. Thus, 1H MRS is the technique of choice to examine this type of suspicious cargo, since it allows for a non-destructive and rapid content characterization. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.