Last week I opened a bottle of red wine from my cellar and I discovered it was corked. Over my wine drinking career I have had a number of corked bottles of wine. Each time it happens I am slightly depressed, since I just wasted a potentially good bottle of wine. When doing a little research on corked wine I found a story that said most wine drinkers will experience as many as 100 bottles of corked wine in their adult life. The estimate is that about 2% to 3% of bottle wines are corked or one bottle in every two cases. If any of us get too many, that will really start to suck.
While I have mentioned corked wine in blog articles before, I think it’s a situation we should always be on the look out for. Thus, I am devoting this post to just that topic.
What is Corked Wine
A corked wine doesn’t mean it has little pieces of cork floating around in your glass. If that is the case it usually means we put the corkscrew through the cork when opening the bottle and broke off little pieces of the bottom of the cork. Corked wine is a term associated with a wine that has become contaminated with cork taint. This is caused by a potent compound with the catchy name of 2, 4, 6 – trichloroanisole, TCA (tri-clor-ann-ā-sole).
“TCA naturally occurs in wood, wine, water, soil, vegetables, fruit and cork. TCA is produced when naturally occurring airborne fungi and bacteria combine with chlorinated phenolic compounds, creating an anisole derivative. Additional TCA is caused by the pesticides used on cork trees, the wood preservatives used on the cork itself or the wood barrels wine is aged in, and a former cause, chlorine bleaching to sterilize the wood used in wine production (chlorine bleaching has been replaced by peroxide bleaching). TCA is transferred to the wine from or through the cork (bottle-specific cork taint) or from the winery.” (From Winefrog.com)
Since the discovery of the cause of cork taint, most wineries are very conscious of the conditions causing cork taint and go to great lengths to protect against it happening in their wineries.
Detecting Corked Wine
While corked wine is unpleasant to taste, cork taint isn’t harmful in any way. It just ruins your tasting of the wine and perhaps your mood. Especially if its an expensive bottle of wine. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase some older Château Margaux, which as you all know is a semi-expensive French Bordeaux wine. So far, three of the six bottles I have opened have been corked. Those got poured down the sink along with several of my tears. The one bottle that I have tried that wasn’t corked tasted wonderful. I have two left. I am a little scared to try them.
The way you detect corked wine is by smell. Does your wine smell like?
- Musty like my grandmother’s basement
- Your wet dog
- Wet cardboard or newspaper
- Your gym clothes after a long workout
What else happens? Cork Taint:
- Dulls or eliminates the fruit taste in wine
- Cuts the finish
- Changes the color of the wine (in my opinion it loses its shininess and becomes dull in color)
- Happens in different levels: Sometimes it’s barely noticeable and often times it will be very noticeable the moment you open the bottle
You can not fix corked wine. If you open a bottle and it’s corked, I suggest you return it to the wine shop you purchased it from. Or, if you are in a restaurant, send it back and ask for another bottle. If you return a corked bottle, it is best if the bottle isn’t almost finished.
Let me also mention that white wine can also become corked just like red. To me I find it harder to sniff out a corked red wine than a corked white wine. My advice is when in doubt, don’t drink it.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- December 4 – Cabernet Franc Day
- December 20 – National Sangria Day
- December 31 – National Champagne Day