Does the cork make wine taste weird?

Does the cork make wine taste weird?

You’ve had this happen, I am sure. You opened a bottle of wine and thought “this doesn’t taste right.” Maybe you had the wine before and tasted better then. Maybe you notice a very distinctly “non-wine” aroma. Well, it’s possible that the cork has changed the flavor of the wine!

The cork industry hates that we say that.

It implies that it’s their product causing a glass of wine to taste bad when in fact, it’s a chemical IN their product that results from a type of mold that comes in contact with chlorine. This chemical is called 2, 4, 6, Trichloroanisole. We will call it TCA, so I don’t have to type that out a bunch more times. TCA is the best known “cork taint,” but there are a few others. We won’t bother with those in the interest of brevity.

TCA at the lowest levels really just kills the aromatics of wine. It reduces the impression of fruit and for lack of a better way to put it, just makes the wine taste dumb. As the amount of the wine increases, it might smell moldy or chemical-y. The way I describe it is: if your tap water is chlorinated (unless you are on a well, it is), take a washcloth and soak it in tap water. Now, put it in a bowl under the sink for a week or two. Pull it out and smell it. It is very likely you have produced TCA.

Now, some people are not sensitive to TCA. And some are sensitive to it at a level of 2 parts per trillion…. Yes, trillion. That’s like looking at a swimming pool full of white marbles and being able to see the two black ones EVEN IF THEY ARE ON THE BOTTOM.

The cork industry would like us to believe that only 0.5% – 1.2% of natural corks are afflicted with this issue. I am not so sure. I will hand it to them though, they have worked very hard to reduce the incidence of TCA, and they have done a very good job. Still, I see nothing wrong with screw caps.

Originally from Ohio, Steve moved to California in 1994 to study Viticulture and Enology at the University of California Davis. Steve has produced or worked with wines from all over California and the west coast.

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