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How to Tell if Wine is Corked

Charl Joost
Last Updated: February 14th, 2023

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Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from mashed and fermented grapes and is available in a multitude of classifications with differing flavoring notes.

In this article, we are going to identify how to tell if wine is corked. Hopefully, you will have more clarity on this subject after reading this.

What is Corked Wine?

what is corked wine

Corked wine is an interesting term, and according to a sommelier in Hollywood, Jeremy Allen, it is not as simple as being a bottle sealed with a cork. Rather, corked wine is a term that explains a wine tainted by TCA which is a compound that causes wine to smell and taste bad.

This beverage can have a particularly awful smell or taste and it can occur in all types of wine. The type of wine does not dictate whether it can be corked, but rather whether the TCA was present in the wine cellar and affected the corks used during bottling.

What does Corked Wine Taste Like?

The smells and tastes, according to Allen, can include that of a wet dog, a beach bathroom, or wet cardboard. TCA can be found in most aspects of a wine-making environment, including on cardboard, barrels, and corks, and can taint the final wine product.

Corked wine can have a wide variety of tastes, not limited to a wet dog or wet cardboard. Many individuals feel like they cannot ask if a wine is corked as they may be judged as someone who does not like that specific wine.

There is some judgment in the wine-drinking community which can lead to people ignoring the obvious signs of corked wine. If the taste of the wine does not match what has been suggested or is specifically appalling, it is likely the wine is corked and not unsuitable to your taste.

Once you have smelled corked wine, it is easy to tell the next time as it is not a taste you will forget. This will make it easier the next time you experience a corked wine so you are less likely to face the same judgment as you would if you were a new wine drinker who had less experience with this phenomenon.

What Does it Mean When Wine is Corked?

what does it mean when wine is corked

Corked wine is tainted by TCA, which is the chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole. It taints the wine and creates a less-than-appealing smell and taste in the final wine product. Most winemakers will look intensely at the corks used in bottling to ensure there is no TCA, however, they then miss the other places it could be.

TCA thrives in porous, organic substances such as wood, cardboard, and cork. All of these substances can be found in a wine cellar as wood is used to make the barrels that the wine is stored or aged.

Similarly, cardboard is a common item found as it is used in the boxes that hold the grapes and other ingredients used.

Can you Drink Wine that is Corked?

can you drink wine that is corked

Technically, you can drink wine that is corked as it is not an unsafe beverage to consume. However, it can affect the environment in which you are drinking the wine.

This is because it affects the taste of the wine and the smell of it which can result in an experience that is less than pleasurable.

It will not affect your health and should not present any negative consequences for your body. The only real consequence of drinking corked wine is that you will be subjected to the smells and flavors of wet dogs or cardboard.

Can you tell if Wine is Corked by Smelling the Cork?

An easy way to tell if wine is corked is by smelling it. If it smells like it should (like the aromas the wine-makers have suggested), then it is fine to drink and is likely not corked. However, if the smell of the wine repels you, it is most likely corked.

Corked wine does not refer to when a cork breaks apart slightly in the bottle. This could be because the cork is dry or it is from an older bottle of wine that has been exposed to air. It could also be due to the wine having been aged for too long and no longer being ‘in its prime’, according to Allen.

You can smell the cork to determine whether the wine has become tainted by smelling the cork. This is because the aromas within the wine would have been absorbed into the porous material of the cork, making it slightly easier to tell using this method.

What Happens When Wine Gets Corked?

A wine gets “corked” by being exposed to TCA as previously discussed. This compound is formed when fungi that naturally occur in corks are exposed to certain chlorides. These chlorides can be found in sanitation and sterilization products used in wine cellars, including disinfectants and bleach.

These come together to create TCA which then contaminates the corks or other porous materials used in the wine cellar or winery. It is difficult to remove TCA once it has been absorbed into wine corks and then goes on to taint the wine held in the bottle.

This is a risky compound as it is not limited to infecting one specific wine or a single collection of corks. Rather, it can manifest and grow and end up infecting an entire cellar or winery. To prevent and decrease the risk of ending up with TCA-infected corks, most wineries have limited the use of chlorine-based cleaning supplies.

By reducing the use of these cleaning products, these wineries can prevent the chemicals within the supplies from combining with mold and creating TCA.

What to Do if You Get a Corked Wine

As previously discussed, corked wine is not bad for you with the only downside being the taste and smell of it. The alcohol found in wine will kill any harmful bacteria that the TCA could cause so there is less of a chance of it negatively affecting you.

You can return it if it is corked at most restaurants, alcohol stores, and wineries. There is no expectation for you to drink it and just deal with the experience as the tainting would have occurred at the wine cellar and not wherever you are drinking it.

More Information About Corked Wine

Now that we have looked at the most commonly asked questions about corked wine, you should have a better idea of what it is. However, if you need some more information about this, Bonner Private Wines have made a YouTube video that discusses what corked wine is and how you can identify it.

How to Tell if Wine is Corked – Conclusion

Wine comes in a variety of forms and can be bottled either with a cork or with a screw top. However, the term “corked wine” does not simply refer to how the bottle is sealed, but rather has a separate meaning. Corked wine means that the wine has been tainted by a compound known as TCA, which could occur in many ways.

The resulting wine can carry an awful smell and can taste less than pleasant. This could be due to the TCA being carried on cardboard, corks, or barrels used during the wine-making process. Hopefully, we have covered all the questions you may have had about corked wine and you now have more clarity about it.

About The Author

Charl Joost

Charl is a trainer, public speaker, and professional writer. While he has been coached to niche down, he has many passions. These include golf, gardening, technology, and a decent cup of coffee or two. Charl loves to learn about new products and tries everything he writes about.

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