We've all been in a situation where we think a wine might be corked
but often don't have the confidence in our nose and palate to do anything about it. This post will explain how to identify a corked wine
and what causes it.
How to identify corked wine
Firstly I must explain that a corked wine is not one that has bits of cork in the glass. That is simply just bits of cork that have broken off and are floating in your wine. Take them out and enjoy the wine.
No, wine that is corked can be identified by a bad smell
. It as an enzyme called 2, 4, 6 Trichloranisole
) that makes the wine smell. The most common descriptor for the fault is wet dog, damp carpet or generally just something dank and foisty. Think when you've left something in a cardboard box in the back of the garage or shed. When you remember it's there it has a distinctive smell of slightly damp, old things. That is the smell of corked wine.
How it is caused
is caused by a chemical reaction. Airborne fungus interacts with chlorophenol compounds which are converted to chlorinated anisole derivatives. Chlorophenols taken up by cork trees are an industrial pollutant found in many pesticides and wood preservatives, which may mean that the incidence of cork taint has risen in modern times. Ironically, chlorophenols can also be a product of the chlorine bleaching process used to sterilise corks; this has led to the increasing adoption of methods such as peroxide bleaching. TCA is completely harmless and will not affect you in any way if you drink corked wine. It will just smell and taste bad so you won't enjoy the wine.
As TCA is caused in part by airborne fungus there are areas of the winery where the enzyme may develop. In turn any water or wine that comes into contact will also be affected. Meticulous hygiene in the winery has gone some way to prevent this and synthetic corks or screwcaps have reduced the occurrence even further. It is still estimated, however, that around 7% of all wine will be affected by cork taint.