THE BASICS OF CORK TAINT – WHAT IS “CORKED WINE”?

Two pretty good articles dealing with cork taint, or “corked” wine came up in my Twitter feed (@JimLockardWine) today. I thought I would post about them here and give you the necessary links. There is also a connected post about the top six wine faults that you will find interesting as well.

wine - chart - cork types

Corked wine is a fairly common problem, but like all wine problems, a very small percentage of wine bottles will be corked. The Cellar Insider (LINK) puts the number somewhere between 3 and 8%, which means that if you drink from 200 bottles a year, you will encounter 6 to 16 corked wines. Not all wine that is corked is obvious, and the blog post from Wine Folly (LINK) speaks to that issue. Sometimes, the effects of the bad cork are subtle and not noticed.

“By the way, when a wine has low levels of TCA it might not stink of the aforementioned aromas. Instead, it will just have no fruit and floral smells and very little flavor. You might think the wine was just boring.”

Those aromas include:

  • Musty
  • Wet Dog
  • Wet Cardboard
  • Wet Newspaper
  • Grandma’s Basement

They are caused by TCA, and according to the Social Vignerons blog (LINK):

“What is TCA?

Trichloroanisole or TCA is a natural compound most-generally found in wood that has been in contact with some form of chloride chemical. When Chlorophenols, molecules found in certain pesticides and wood preservatives, get in contact with wood, they can be transformed by fungi into TCA and other bad smelling agents. Because most of the wood surrounding us is treated with preservatives —so it doesn’t rot— the contamination comes from anywhere.

If a contaminated wood gets anywhere near wine, the bad odours concentrate into the wine until it may eventually become ‘tainted’.

Main source of TCA in wine is obviously the cork for 2 reasons:

  • A cork is essentially a piece of wood (or bark to be precise) that comes from a tree (the majority of cork trees used for making wine corks are grown in Portugal). If that tree has been in contact with chloride compounds at any given time in its life, its bark may have developed bad smells

  • A cork is obviously in close contact with wine, allowing bad aromas to contaminate the liquid.”

wine - cork taint

There isn’t much you can do about corked wine – send it back if in a restaurant; return it to your regular wine retailer for a replacement; maybe give everyone present a lesson in what corked wine smells and tastes like before you pour it down the sink (it isn’t harmful to drink, just either nasty or flat and favorless). The blog posts speak more about this.

wine - cork tree
Cork Tree

As to the 6 top wine faults (LINK), they include:

  1. Corked wine (TCA)
  2. Brettanomyces a.k.a. “Brett” – yeasts that don’t belong in your wine
  3. Reduction: the opposite of Oxidation. Results in sulfuric, rotten eggs smell
  4. Mercaptains: also surfuric. Smells of cabbage, garlic or onion
  5. Volatile Acidity – wine is like vinegar
  6. Oxidation – the wine ages prematurely and becomes unpleasant

The Social Vignerons blog gives more details on each of these and how to reverse them, if that is possible.

bad-smell

Faults in wine are more common the more wine you drink. It is important to learn how to detect these faults and what you can do about them. Many thanks to Julien Miguel (@JMiguelWine) at Social Vignerons.com (LINK) and to Madeline Puckette (@WineFolly) at WineFolly.com (LINK) for the great educational work they do.

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

Feel free to share this post with others who may be interested.

And follow me on Twitter – @JimLockardWine

1 thought on “THE BASICS OF CORK TAINT – WHAT IS “CORKED WINE”?

  1. Thanks, Jim; super helpful; have you read Jamie Goode’s book on Wine Flaws?

    On Jan 20, 2019, at 3:48 AM, Jim Lockard On Wine wrote:

    Like

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