How To Tell if a Wine is Corked

How to Tell if a Wine is Corked

You’ve heard the term, “corked,” but do you know what it means and how to tell if a wine is corked? You might even be drinking corked wine and not even know it. It is tough to detect even for a regular wine drinker. Statistics say that 1 in every 12 bottles of wine is corked.

Corked is a wine term describing a wine that is ruined by the TCA taint. TCA is an acronym for Trichloroacetic acid, which spoils a wine. It occurs mostly in natural corks, which is the widely used closure for wine and sparkling wine. There are other closures used by wineries in an attempt to avoid TCA.

The types of closures you can find on a bottle of wine:

1. Natural Cork – The most traditional and popular closure. Cork is a tree that is now farmed sustainably in Portugal. The best part of the cork is the center of the tree and is the most expensive. Do you ever wonder why some wines are so pricey? Investing in premium cork will ensure fewer issues. Natural corks are also a wise choice for the environment because they are completely biodegradable.
2. Synthetic Cork – Synthetic corks are made from plastic compounds designed to look like natural cork, but without the risk of a wine being “corked.” Unlike natural corks, synthetic corks are made from a material that is not biodegradable, but they are recyclable. Check with your local recycling station to see if they accept them.
3. Screw Cap – We all know that a screw cap doesn’t mean a wine is cheap, it’s just easier to open! Several wineries around the world have adopted to using this form of closure. The main reason is that it almost guarantees the wine will be flawless, however, there can be quality variation.
4. Glass – First introduced in the European wine industry, more wineries around the world have selected this closure. It is a terrific closure, but they are expensive and fewer wineries using them

How to tell if a wine is corked:

Corked wine is detected after initially opening a bottle of wine or sparkling wine. Always pour about an ounce in your glass before pouring a full glass. Swirl it around and give it a whiff. If you can imagine the smell of wet cardboard or a musty basement, that is what corked wine is. You are going to have a lot less fruit on the nose because TCA takes over the wine (wine should smell fresh when young and have more dried fruit notes when older).

If you still can’t tell, then do taste the wine and if it’s musty, the wine is corked. Many people confuse these characteristics with wine being “earthy,” but earthy notes are pleasant. There is a tasting wheel that you can buy and have on hand when tasting. It walks you through the types of aromas/tastes found in particular wines. This is an awesome tool for a wine enthusiast, especially those who are just starting to learn.

Is there anything you can do once you determine a wine is corked?

Nothing will take away the TCA taint, but you can do something with the bottle. In a restaurant, you simply return it after you taste it.  If you bought the wine from a retailer, you can also return it to the store within a day or so.

If you want to avoid the chances of corked wine, then perhaps buying alternative closures is what is best. However some of the best wines in the world will almost always be sealed by natural cork, so sometimes you just have to roll the dice. I guarantee it’s worth it.

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