February 2, 2012

Is Your Wine Corked?

Have you ever opened a bottle of wine and found it smelled like a wet dog? Or wet cardboard...or a moldy basement? Your first reaction might be, 'huh, this must be a French wine,' but cork taint is a real phenomena and effects around 1% of all wines produced. That may not seem like a big number, and it isn't, really. However, that fact does not make one feel any better when you open a bottle of corked wine and must dump your wine down the sink.
What causes cork taint? Well, I'm no scientist, but it goes something like this: Cork taint is the presence of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA, a chemical compound that arises from airborne bacterial interacting with chlorinated phenolic compounds ), and/or 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA, a chemical compound derived from bacterial interaction with wood material) which has been transferred from the cork. In almost all cases of corked wine the natural aromas of the wine are reduced significantly, and a very tainted wine is quite unpalatable, although totally harmless if you do consume it. 
While the human threshold for detecting TCA is measured in the single-digit parts per trillion, this can vary by several orders of magnitude depending on an individual's sensitivity . Some people, can drink mildly corked wine without a problem. There is a theory that claims that pouring corked wine in a decanter with a wadded up piece of saran wrap will help alleviate the effects of corked wine. I've tried the saran wrap method; it does help remove some of the corked odor, but the wine still felt rather flat as TCA also effects vitality of fruit and acidity in wine over time. 
I recently opened another corked bottle of wine. No one likes a corked bottle of wine, but when that corked wine is a Grand Cru Griotte-Chambertin, Dude is not a happy guy.

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