What does corked wine smell like?
You've opened your wine and then the worst happens : it smells strange.. The most common wine fault is cork taint or TCA which is caused by a mould that grows on cork oak trees. It's got nothing to do with cork in wine, if only - it would be so much easier to resolve if that were the case!
Cork is a natural product which means that not all of it can be controlled. Occasionally TCA mould gets into the cork, and sits there, once the cork comes into contact with the wine, it breeds and wreaks havoc with your wine. This is not a common occurrence though, realistically we're looking at about 2% of corks having this problem. It's not a huge risk, but at sometime or another you'll most likely run into it.
If you're wondering, what does a corked wine smell like? think wet cardboard, wet dog, musty cellar. Yep, you're going to notice! In very tiny amounts, TCA will mute the aromas of the wine so you won't get the usual "up-your-nose" aromas from your favourite wines but with time and contact with oxygen, cork taint will get stronger. This means that if you're not sure if your wine is corked or not, leave if for 5 minutes or so and try it again.
What can I do with corked wine? Unfortunately, there's not much to do about it. If you're in a restaurant, the staff should change the bottle for you. Some wine suppliers do offer to refund bottles with cork taint once they have tested that it really does have TCA, whereas others just say its bad luck and part of the charm of using a natural product...
Can a bottle of wine with a screw-cap have cork taint?
TCA that causes cork taint can be present in a winey and on the wine-making equipment, not just transported on the cork so it is possible that even screw caps can be corked although this is even more rare than finding a tainted cork.
Considering that more and more people are drinking wine at home rather than in restaurants where service staff are happy to replace. Finding a bottle of wine with cork taint risks a wine producer losing a client which means that more and more wineries are using alternative corks and closures including corks made from sugar beet to be sure that they don't have this. These corks are recyclable, carbon-neutral and considering the world is drinking more and more wine, make a great alternative to cork in more than one way.
Each week on our Instagram account I'll be answering some of your wine questions, these are ones that we have been asked on our Get Comfy with Wine course or via our IG. If you have something you want to know, just drop us a link via our IG account.