Cork taint – the bane of the wine industry. I’ve tasted many wines I thought might be tainted and many wines I just plain didn’t like. But I’ve never really been sure if it’s “corked” or not. Tonight I opened a bottle that was certainly off. I read up on cork taint (here and here and here) and am now not sure it was tainted, but here’s what I experienced and how I “fixed” it.
I pulled out the cork and noticed a thick layer of gritty crust on the bottom of it. Almost like the cork was disintegrating. There was also a lot of debris around the inside of the bottle neck. No biggie if it’s just loose cork floating in the wine, but this was different. I read that sometimes unfiltered wine will have a layer of crystals inside, so it could have been that, but I suspect it was more than that.
Then I smelled the wine and noticed something very strange — almost NO smell. Referring back to one of those links above, I found that cork taint often masks the smell of the wine so that you actually don’t smell anything at all, good or bad. Hmmm, ok, so this could be cork taint after all.
Then, being the good wife I am, I handed the bottle to my husband and said, “Taste this. Does it taste bad?” He took a swig and said, “oh yeah, that’s bad.” This is a man who occasionally drinks red-wine vinegar for fun. He loves vinegar, so it takes a lot for him to say a wine is bad. I tentatively tasted it and immediately spit it out. Corked or not, there was definitely something wrong with it.
I once heard a trick for saving corked wine: wad up a piece of plastic wrap and put it in a glass bowl, then pour the bad
wine over it. Let it sit for a while and TCA molecules that are responsible for the taint form a cohesive bond with the plastic wrap and “stick” to the wrap. So when you pour the wine back into your glass, it’s sans TCA. I tried it once before with a suspect bottle of wine and had less than stellar results. But then again, that was pretty bad wine to begin with.
This time, I knew this wine was essentially good, it just got contaminated with a harmless, yet foul, molecule. So I gave it the old college try, and it worked! I think the wine is probably supposed to be better, but it’s drinkable now. Maybe I should have used Glad instead of Costco plastic wrap.
This was a good lesson for me, though. I’m one of those “too nice” people who doesn’t complain when my steak is too rare or send bad wine back. Corked wine is nothing personal to the sommelier, restaurant or winery. It’s just an unfortunate occurance, and it’s not necessary to drink tainted wine.