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What Is Corked Wine?

Corked wine is unpleasant, to say the least. Learn what is it, how to spot the characteristics, and what to do if your wine is corked.

What Is Corked Wine? | Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine

Whether you buy, drink, or serve wine, knowing what corked wine and how to spot corked wine is ESSENTIAL. If you don’t know what corked wine is, it's when wine is affected by cork taint causing an unpleasant smell or taste. Around 3% of all wines are corked. The tough thing is that you can’t tell what wine is corked till you smell or taste the wine. This is the reason why sommeliers test the wine before serving it to their guests and why you should do the same before serving wine to guests in your home. If you're curious how wine becomes corked, how to spot corked wine, and what to do if your wine is indeed corked, keep reading because I’ll explain it all here.

How does wine become corked?

Cork Tree | How Does Wine Become Corked?

Cork taint that causes the unpleasant smell or taste in corked wine comes from TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), which is a chemical compound formed when the natural cork fungi comes in contact with chemical sterilization products like fungicide and pesticides. Corks can be contaminated at any time in the cork-producing process to the wine-making process. In response to this issue, cork companies and wineries use techniques like testing individual corks and using chlorine-based clearing products to minimize TCA.

How can I tell if my wine is corked?

White Wine | How can I tell if my wine is corked?

You can find out if your wine is corked by smelling or tasting your wine. The primary method of testing is smelling the wet end of the cork, but you can also pour a small glass to smell and taste the wine if you prefer. The following aromas and tastes that indicate a wine is corked are:

  • Wet, damp cloth or cardboard

  • Musty basement

  • Mold

  • Dull, muted or uninteresting winter notes

These characteristics can at times be prominent and other times harder to decipher, so the best way to learn how to spot a corked wine is through constant practice of smelling and tasting wines. Overall, if you feel the wine is corked, it likely is corked. Wine with screwcaps can also be corked (even without a cork) since TCA can affect whole batches of wine, so be sure to check ALL wines, whether they have corks or screwcaps.

What do I do when my wine is corked?

Wine Corks | What do I do when wine is corked?

First off, cork taint is not poisonous and isn’t bad for you, it just makes the wine unpleasant. However, you should be able to enjoy your wine rather than endure the displeasure of drinking corked wine, so if this happens, RETURN IT. If you’re at a restaurant, let the waiter know and ask them for another glass of wine from a newly opened bottle or a new bottle if you ordered a full bottle. If you purchased the bottle from a liquor store or winery, bring back your opened bottle with the receipt and ask them for a new one.

I hope this helps! Happy wine tasting.


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