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I recently opened a bottle of Beaujolais from Julienas, one of the 10 prized crus of the region south of Burgundy, France. I poured a glass and anxiously awaited the beautiful, bright, tart red fruit aromas and flavors that I was about to experience. One problem….they were not there.
The nose was muted with no trace of fruit. There was a dank, wet cardboard aroma and taste. Was the smell completely offensive? No. Was the wine non-descript and a shell of what it should be? Yes. What happened? The same problem that takes place 3 percent to 7 percent of the time or roughly in one in every 17 bottles you open. Cork taint.
The chief cause of cork taint is the presence of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), and/or 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA), in the wine, which in many cases transfers from the cork. Corked wine containing TCA has a characteristic odor, variously described as resembling a moldy newspaper, a wet dog or a damp basement.
Cork taint does not discriminate; any winery is susceptible. It can happen in your next restaurant experience or with a special bottle you purchased at your favorite wine shop. Cork producers have taken strides in recent years to minimize cork taint, but it still exists. Wineries can avoid cork taint by using screw caps—but only cork enclosures facilitate the subtle exchange of oxygen that allows a good wine to evolve in the bottle.
When I experienced the corked bottle of Julienas, I opened a second bottle, smelled it and tasted it. Ahhh…beautiful cherry, tart raspberries, soft texture. I poured a glass of the corked wine and the good wine for my wife and asked her to smell and taste each. Which did she like better? No contest. I put the cork back in the tainted wine and returned it to my wine shop the next day for credit.
When you are asked to taste a wine in a restaurant after you order it, it is not to see if you like it. It is for you to evaluate and determine whether the wine is sound and not corked. If the wine has no trace of typical aroma or fruit and/or has a musty aroma, chances are it is corked. Trust your nose. If you think the wine is tainted, it probably is.
This week’s guest blog is by George Staikos, noted educator and founder of The Educated Grape, a company dedicated to interactive wine classes, tastings and special events.
Tags: Red Wine
A 25-year veteran of the wine and hospitality industry, George Staikos is known for his role as an educator, sharing his passion for wine appreciation. He is the founder and president of the Educated Grape, a company specializing in interactive education programs and in-home wine entertaining for wine enthusiasts and companies. He is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s International School of Hospitality Management, where he teaches “Introduction to the Study of Wine.” He is also Vice Echanson or regional wine director for the mid-Atlantic region for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a worldwide food-and-wine organization.
Staikos is a graduate of Florida International University in Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. He is married with three children and lives in Flemington.