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organic wine, Wine Education


I’m that person.  The one who excitedly sticks her nose in the wine glass, expecting a beautiful bouquet and somehow always manages to get the one bottle of every twelve that smells like wet cardboard.  Musty, damp cork.  And I must send it away.  I still have trouble making that call, or, at least, I have trouble calling it out, even when I know that smell all too well.  It’s nobody’s fault, but it still feels, well…snobby.  Once you identify that corky stink, though, there’s no turning back…

Trichloroanisole, otherwise known as TCA (and even more simply as ‘cork taint’), is a chemical flaw found in roughly 8% of all wine.  It commonly comes from or through the cork itself (making the screw-cap argument all the stronger), though it can also be transferred from the barrel, ruining hundreds of bottles (shame on the winemaker for releasing the plonk).

In short, what happens is that airborne fungi glom on to chlorophenol compounds, which in turn produce chloroanisole in the wine.  Chlorophenol compounds are otherwise known as industrial pollutants, which cork trees just love to soak up.  Therefore, a correlation has been drawn between the rise in cork taint with greater amounts of pesticides and pollution in the environment.  Kind of creepy…

So, if your wine smells like musty old books, the Sunday paper dragged in from the rain, or even nothing—like it’s muted—you make be experiencing TCA.  It completely destroys the lovely fruit, earth, and spices you might normally get in the nose.  And if you are ever uncertain, just ask your local wine shop clerk or restaurant sommelier.  It’s a good thing to know.  You are always entitled to return or send back a tainted wine.  They won’t think you’re too much of a snob.


About mistralwine1982

Originally from Wisconsin, I moved to Colorado in 2005 in order to get closer to the mountains and rock climb. When it occurred to me that I would never make money with that hobby, I went to grad school. I received a masters in English and American Literature from New York University in May of 2009. I have since then opted not to pursue a PhD, for studying and writing about wine is far more fascinating (well, perhaps not moreso than Virginia Woolf, but still… for the long haul?). My favorite wines come from the old world, especially the Rhone, Burgundy, Rioja, Piedmont, and Tuscany. I am also smitten with roses, Italian hard-to-pronounce white varietals, and dessert wines from around the world. By day I run a wine shop. By nite, I sip and tell. It’s rough… but someone must do this.


One thought on “corked.

  1. I’m so glad you wrote about this. I’m not a very sophisticated wine drinker but my nose is extremely sensitive. I’ve taken bottles back to our wine seller which were most assuredly “corked.” I thought the fact that I always feel so guilty was because I’m from the South and sometimes my manners masquerade as being a doormat. Glad to know it’s more of a universal fear of appearing snobby.

    Posted by Barb | 12/28/2009, 7:00 am

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