Tag Archives: cork taint

What Makes Wine Smell Musty?

Question from Kristy: What makes the wine smell musty? Can it still taste okay?

Reply: There are a few different reasons the wine might smell musty. And, you decide if it tastes okay. Here are some possibilities:

Maybe you chemists or microbiologists can enlighten us with some other causes?

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What’s a “Corked” Wine?

After last week’s post on where corks come from, Jan wrote in to ask what it means when someone says the wine is corked. Here’s a brief explanation:

I should add that cork taint is an equal opportunity problem and can afflict everything from two-buck Chuck to Chateau Sticker Shock!

Jan’s question leads us to another one: What kind of seal will be the most common 25 years from now? Anyone want to place a bet?

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Is There a Cork Shortage?

There’s this persistent rumor going round that there’s a cork shortage. Any truth to it? Nope. 

I feel like I’m pulling far fewer bad corks out of bottles over the past few years. How about you? And, how do you feel about the alternatives? 

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What is “Corked” Wine?

Question from Bill: Hi! What is corked wine?

Reply: Hi, Bill. Thanks for writing! With the popularity of plastic corks and screw caps you might well think that when someone says “This wine is corked” it means that it has a real cork in it! But, no…

When the wine is “corked” it means that it’s got a dank, moldy aroma like a stack of wet newspapers or a damp basement. Yuck! Fortunately, it’s not harmful. Unfortunately, it stinks! At low levels it dulls the fruit character. At high levels it’s extremely offensive! And, human detection is measured in the parts per trillion – this is potent stuff! If you hear a reference to “cork taint”, its the same thing.

There are other sources, but the most common reason for this off character is a compound called 2,4,6 tricholoranisole (TCA for short). We now know that TCA can come from other wooden surfaces (natural cork is bark of the cork-oak tree)  like a barrel or a picking box. Wineries have been known to remodel if they have any wooden surfaces in the actual production area because if you get the right naturally-occurring airborne fungi together with chlorine (very common in wineries; in the past they used chlorine to purify natural cork, but that’s been replaced by hydrogen peroxide) it’s a nice recipe for producing TCA. Continue reading

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