How To Tell If Wine Is Corked

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On Monday evening, after being back to the grind after a wonderful ski trip, I reached for another bottle of Beaujolais (big blog post coming up soon) and got a little suspicious when I saw the cork was rather deep in the bottle, and a little wonky, on the piss if you like. It crumbled slightly as I inserted the cork screw and upon withdrawal, it seemed very dry indeed. I tasted the wine, it was verging on fizzy, but to give it the benefit of the doubt I had some cheese and water to cleanse my pickled onion tainted palate (terrible snack habit) and tried again. It was still slightly fizzy, tasted damp, and if I was to lick the slightly damp wall in the cellar I imagine it would be quite similar and so, instead of this disappointing experience going to waste, I thought I’d write a blog post on how to tell if a wine is corked.

First things first, if it’s got a screw cap or a synthetic cork, it’s not corked it’s you. Secondly, if there’s some cork or sediment in the wine, this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it either. That’s because corked wine is tainted by the natural cork, not the wine itself, it’s neither harmful or particularly bad for you, but it can certainly be upsetting if it’s a really good wine, because it makes it taste pretty revolting.

Cork is natural and like everything natural, certain microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi like to eat it. Imagine one of these little microorganisms is munching away on the tree, they could also remain as part of the wine cork even after the whole manufacturing process. When the microorganisms remain in the cork, they produce a hassle of a chemical compound called TCA (2,4,6 – trichloroanisole) and this will instantly ruin a wine as soon as it touches the cork. TCA is essentially from a fungus reacting to a common plant fungicide which contains chlorine…so in essence it is the small amounts of chlorine the trigger the reaction.

Signs it’s probably corked:

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  • There’s a natural cork
  • It smells musty/like a wet dachshund/a dingy cellar/mouldy bread
  • It tastes astringent, there’s hardly any fruitiness, it’s bitter
  • I also think corked wines look a little sad, they pour with no exuberance, but I do think I’m going round the twist so that could just be me.

Most shops and wine companies are very understanding when it comes to corked wine, you should return the bottle to them for investigation and it’s likely that they will replace it. 

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