Regular reader but my first post. I was compelled to do this as I have just come across my first instance of cork taint. Reading statistics it is roughly 2-3% of all wines that suffer from this. That seems like an awful lot and as I have been drinking wine for many years and this is my first experience I just wondered have I been lucky or does anyone else come across this more regularly.
They tend to be like buses. None for ages then two or three in swift succession so brace yourself!
Last time it happened to us was a case of TWS Valpolicella Ripasso, three of which were tainted. So of course TWS credited our account each time.
It used to be higher.
But cork taint is a funny thing, some people don’t recognise it.
Once you are aware of it then you will find more. I reckon some of the wines you’ve had before have been corked, maybe at a low level where it suppresses fruit flavours, and you decided that you didn’t like that wine. If you tasted the same wine now then you would probably recognise it as tainted
I’ve only had one badly corked wine from the w/s. I remember how common it was twenty years ago. I actually got my partner and a couple of friends to try it out to illustrate what badly corked wine is like.
I encounter other faults* more than cork taint to be honest. I’m not sure i’d recognise it every time.
*although rarely if ever from society wines.
I suspect it is 2-3% of wines with real corks, rather than all wines. But there are now many wines closed with screwcaps, Diam-type corks and plastic. That, and improved corks, led to a marked overall reduction of cork-taint.
Just to develop @peterm’s point about low-level taint. You can’t taste the offending trihaloanisoles at this level, but they “scalp” the interest off the wine in that particular bottle. Without the services of a gas chromatograph, the only way you are likely to find out if that disappointing bottle is due to cork taint is to open another bottle and compare the two, which I did do once last year.
The other point is that individual sensitivity to these compounds varies quite a bit from person to person, so your guest who says that the wine tastes OK may have a poor palate - but they may genuinely perceive nothing wrong with the wine due to a low sensitivity to THAs.
(trichloroanisole, the commonest agent of cork taint)
If you have never drunk a particular wine before, you might not notice a mild or even not so mild case of cork taint. However, if you get a bad one…
I think that some people don’t realise what it is, and just think they don’t like the wine. Side by side with an untainted one usually puts that to bed…
I would really like to get my hands on a bottle that I know has cork taint just to experience it. I suspect I have had wines like you have described with low-level taint when I have tried a wine that others have admired and I’ve just found dull and uninteresting. Was it me or was it cork taint? I don’t really know, which, of course, is exactly my problem and, I suspect, is why like @gabehiggins I’ve probably condemned some wines as uninteresting that actually might have had that low level of cork taint.
I wouldn’t say this has happened very often; usually when I find a wine uninteresting I’m not unduly surprised as it is usually a cheap wine where I wasn’t expecting too much anyway. I’ve rarely had an expensive wine that I would have described as ‘uninteresting.’ I have had some expensive ones that I haven’t particularly liked but that’s usually just that I don’t like the style (I’ve still to find a Burgundy or even a pinot noir that’s really floated my boat!).
Yes, Cork taint is often not detected. I once went to a tasting run by a well known merchant in one of the Cambridge Colleges, so mostly experienced tasters. My companion and I detected cork taint on a white. You could split the room in half with those who could notice it and those who could not. even the organiser thought the wine was ok! Some people are much more sensitive to this fault than others
If you are a regular at a wine merchant or restaurant, you could ask nicely if they would let you have tainted wine that has been returned.
You can also buy “wine faults” kits with little vials of nastiness, but I think it is best to experience RCA “in the wild”.
That’s not a bad idea. I wonder if the TWS showroom ever keep a couple for people to try. However I’d have thought it wouldn’t be long before the smell of vinegar overpowers the smell of cork taint?
You are right that oxidation smells might well mask some of the cork taint. (It’s really another discussion, but doubt vinegar would be one of them)
I was hoping the restaurant/merchant would use discretion in what they chose to offer, but you never know.
If the wine smells like you’re the first visitor of the day to a National trust property, it’s a gonner! First to go is the aroma, no need to travel further.
But those are the easy ones. It is the wine which smells and tastes about as you expected, but less so, that is the problem. Bad year? Rose-tinted memories? or a problem?
Leaving it a few hours may make it much worse or better, and therefore clear, although that’s not an easy option in a restaurant.
(To add to the discussion) - If the cork taint is only mild, you don’t have to throw the bottle away (assuming you were not going to return it to the merchant). You can use it for future sauce-making/deglazing by boiling it up to concentrate it down somewhat. The act of boiling it effectively steam-distils the THA out of the wine.
This is a top tip, thank you! I always thought once it’s corked, it’s only good for going down the sink!
If it’s markedly corked, I’m fine, but otherwise I sometimes struggle - especially with the nose. We had a bottle last week that was a bit corked - it wasn’t until you tasted it you could really tell, but it was only after that I realised that the nose was just a bit ‘dull’.
Out of curiosity if you have this situation but are not planning on any wine cooking for a little while, would you boil it down first and then maybe freeze it or do you think it’s only worth doing if you’re going to use it within the next few days?
You can actually rid the wine of cork taint! I have tried this and confirm it works ( if there are any organic chemistry types reading, please advise!).
Pour wine into large inert jug or mixing bowl lined with common cling film, stir around, then pour back into cleaned bottle. Amount of cling film depends on level of taint. And voila, the taint has gone - but the magic cannot replace the lost fruit aromas.
Something to do with polymers capturing sulphur compounds?.
Ok, as an organic chemistry type I’ll bite
I can’t think of a reason why clingfilm would do that specifically to TCA, but would suggest that the process of tipping the wine out and stirring it around is very effectively decanting/airing it, thereby opening up the wine and perhaps diminishing the presence of TCA. TCA isn’t particularly volatile though.
The scientist in me would want to do the experiment where one bottle gets the clingfilm treatment and one gets all the other processes but in a clingfilm free bowl. Call me a cynic but i think the end result would be the same.