Last week we talked about corks vs. screwcaps, and I mentioned that a downside to corks is that 1-3% of corks will develop cork taint. What does that mean though?
First, let me assure you that although that stat about corks is true, that doesn’t mean that 1-3% of wine you buy will be ruined. A lot of corks now are synthetic, which don’t have this problem, nor do screwcaps, so take a quick exhale.
Let’s cut to the chase…how do you know if your wine is corked? It will smell like moldy basement, wet dog, or damp cardboard. Sometimes this will be obvious, but it can also be subtle. If it’s faint, it will just taste flat or dull, lacking aromas and with little to no flavor. And don’t worry, if you drink a corked wine it won’t harm you beyond disappointment.
If you think your wine is corked, you should return it, whether at a restaurant, online, or to your wine shop. Note cork taint has nothing to do with bits of cork floating in your wine. That’s normal and won’t harm your wine. If you don’t like it, pick it out and just keep sipping.
So how and why does this happen? A chemical compound known as TCA develops when fungi found naturally in cork comes in contact with chlorine and other compounds present in the winemaking process. If this happens the TCA will taint the cork and the wine with it. It’s an unfortunate side effect of a natural cork.
If you drink wine regularly, you’ll eventually encounter some bottles that are corked. Now you know what to look for and what to do though. Have you opened a bottle that was corked, and did you know what it was at the time?