“Corked wine” does not mean the cork is floating in the wine. It isn’t the small white crystals that sometimes form on cork. (These crystals are tartrate, a natural by-product of some wines. Tartrates are harmless.)
Instead, corked wine is wine contaminated with cork taint. Cork taint is caused by a chemical called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA). This chemical forms when fungi (that is naturally in cork) comes in contact with the chlorides in bleach during the sanitation of winery equipment. Cork taint can infect a cellar…or an entire winery.
How to Tell If You Have Corked Wine
You can’t tell if wine has cork taint by smelling the cork. You need to smell the wine. Corked wine smells musty, like damp towels, wet cardboard, wet newspaper, or wet dog. Your first sniff is more reliable than other whiffs.
Tasting the wine is another way you can discern cork taint. The wine may taste dull, without fruity characteristics, and astringent. Some corked wines may taste as bad as paint thinner. Corked wine is not dangerous, just nasty.
Corked wine is not the same as…
- Brettanomyces or “brett” – a natural, wild yeast that can contaminate wines. It sometimes gives a spicy element to wines. However, it can give wine a barnyard or metallic taste. Brett is encouraged instead of cultured yeasts in certain beers to give a unique taste.
- Oxidized wine – wine that has been exposed to too much oxygen. The wine tastes flat and vinegary. White wine will be dull yellow or brown color.
- Maderized wine – wine that has overheated. The wine will taste like almonds or candied fruit. Sometimes the cork will be pushed out from the bottle. This happens when wine becomes too warm and expands.
- Refermented wine – wine that has excess yeast. This creates a fizzy taste.
If you have a bottle of corked wine, return it to the wine dealer so the winery owner can check to see if other bottles are infected with cork taint.
How to Prevent Corked Wine
While storing your wine carefully is important, you can’t prevent cork taint—only the wine’s bottler can! Some winery owners are now using synthetic cork or screw caps to close bottles. While earlier screw caps did not allow wine to “breathe,” newer screw caps have liners that permit oxygen into bottles so the wine can develop and age as if cork was used.
But if it’s good wine (not corked!) then you need to store it properly, as well. The Wine Grotto at STORBOX Self-Storage can help you with that. Our climate-controlled units are perfect to keep your wines delicious. Call (626) 407-3439 and speak to a wine storage counselor today!