I’m home visiting my family in New York this weekend, and decided to bring with me three bottles of 2006 wines to share with them. My best friend and her fiancé also joined us, who are relatively new wine aficionados.
One of the wines I brought with me was unfortunately corked. My father and I could tell right away, but my friends had no idea what this meant. We explained to them what it meant for a wine to be corked, how to detect it, and what to do once you’ve decided it’s corked (if you’re at home, you pour it down the drain). So I will share this with you, dear reader.
Corkage is an important characteristic to learn to detect in wine, especially if you tend to order bottles of wine at restaurants. Ever wonder why they make you try the wine before serving it? This is why.
Generally speaking, when a wine is “corked” the cork has developed a mold that has caused it to disintegrate, transferring a chemical known as TCA to the wine. This results in a pungent odor that can be described as wet cardboard that has been left to mold in your basement. It also tastes rather flat, as though the wine has been stripped of it’s flavor.
If you smell and taste a wine like this in a restaurant, you should tell the waiter that you think it’s corked and send it back. They will usually try it first and agree with you, and bring you a new wine. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to ask your dining partner or friends if they agree. If you’re friends don’t know that much about wine you can just ask them, “does this smell like a wet basement to you?”
I was recently at a wine bar with my friends and tried a Bordeaux that was corked. After making sure that all my friends smelled it and understood why I was sending it back, the waitress brought the same wine out for me to try again. I also thought this bottle was a little off, but not as bad. Graciously, they just let me order a Pinot instead.