I've been into wine for maybe 9 months now. I've had 2 bottles that were terrible when I opened them - I put it down to them being corky because I've had other bottles of the same wine/vintage that were fine.

I've also opened other wines where I could have sworn something was off, although the wine did not approach the poor level of quality where it was undrinkable. Is it possible for a wine to be 'slightly corky'? Whats the best way to tell?
Original Post
There are a lot of other causes of bottle variation, and other ways a wine can be "off," but a corked wine will have a taste and smell reminiscent of moldy cardboard or wet newspapers. It reminds me a lot of the smell of the paper mache we used to make with old newspapers when we were kids. It may be mildly corked or strongly corked, but if it doesn't have such a defect, it's probably not corked but may have something else wrong with it.
Sharpe: I've been into wine for about 2 years now. During that first year I don't have a single note of a wine that was corked (I guess I was lucky or, more likely, inexperienced). Since then I've had a couple that were definitely corked; the tell-tale signs, as Spenser notes, are notes of old musty newspapers. With these bottles it's evident immediately and they're literaly undrinkable.

But what I've also noticed over the past 5 months is several bottles which I've written off as "slightly corked". The hint of newspaper notes are there, at least to me, but not to the point that makes these wines undrinkable. The odd thing about it is that each of these wines, 100%, have been lower-end ($8-15) Chilean cabs. Now, I've had a lot of Chilean cabs that I really enjoy, but I'm wondering if there's an element to these wines that for whatever reason sets off my "corked" senses.

Has anyone else noticed this or am I just imagining things? I wouldn't bring it up if it were just 2 or 3 bottles, but it's been literally the last 4 or 5 (all different years/producers/etc) of Chilean cabs I've tasted. As a matter of fact, the wine I'm drinking tonight (2002 Los Vascos) has a hint of what I interpret as musty newspapers, even though the wine itself is drinkable.
Thanks for the cork question, Sharpe. And great replies, Spencer and gthom.

Cork taint is certainly one of the hot topics among winemakers and consumers today. Bruce Sanderson, head of Wine Spectator’s tasting department, estimates that about 10% of all the wines they taste are corked. Ouch, that’s a lot of corked wine.

When cork taint is perceptible as moldy, wet newspapers, it’s fairly easy to detect. When cork taint is not that concentrated, it simply mutes the wine’s aromas and flavors, making “slightly corky” very difficult to identify.

Another way cork can mark wine was pointed out in a tasting recently hosted by Michel Laroche from Domaine Laroche in Chablis. A couple years ago, he tasted 40 of bottles of the same wine – and found that he was tasting 40 different wines. Especially when the wine is a delicate white, slight differences in the cork, namely its seal and the wood flavors it adds to the wine, can make a huge difference in the wine. His solution? Laroche has chosen to use screwcaps on all the domain’s wines, including the most expensive and age-worthy bottlings.

When it comes to the Chilean cabs, it would be truly unusual to have the run of cork hint that you describe, though it might be the case if you’re really sensing moldy newspaper. (Any statisticians on the forum?) Hmmm… Certainly the Los Vascos 2002 Cab is still within its drinking range as long as it’s been properly stored. Could they all have gotten exposed to high temperatures, or were the corks dried out? If that’s not it, I’m wondering if you’re picking up some earthy aromas or maybe some herbal aromas that you’re interpreting as cork taint.
quote:
Bruce Sanderson, head of Wine Spectator’s tasting department, estimates that about 10% of all the wines they taste are corked. Ouch, that’s a lot of corked wine.


That is very disturbing.

There are a lot of people (casual wine drinkers) who don't even know they are drinking a corked wine (if slightly off). I have sat with people who were drinking the same wine as me and didn't know what I was talking about and even liked the wine.

Ignorance is Wine Bliss sometimes.
quote:
Originally posted by Hunter:
There are a lot of people (casual wine drinkers) who don't even know they are drinking a corked wine (if slightly off). I have sat with people who were drinking the same wine as me and didn't know what I was talking about and even liked the wine.


Ditto. When I've asked the sommelier to bring a replacement bottle, my dining companions have been amazed at how much better the non-tainted wine tasted. That's one reason I'm a big fan of screwcaps.
Glad we could provide some answers, Sharpe.

You're right, detecting and identifying corked wines takes experience in that it really helps to know what the taint smells like.

There's also huge variation in sensitivity to the taint. Some folks like Laube can smell it a mile away. Others need to be hit over the head with it before they can smell it.
quote:
Originally posted by Walt:
i've never had a corked bottle or heard any one i know say they had one .I'm guessing it's not a big problem.


A common occurance I have noticed on this forum, as well, I experienced it myself:

You might have had a slightly corked bottle but didn't really notice it... but...You will stumble ( Big Grin) across a corked wine at some point [usually very corked] and from there on you will be "tainted"

There are also certain people who are more sensitive to corked wine, and can pick out even a slightly off bottle.

Jason
quote:
Originally posted by Walt:
i've never had a corked bottle or heard any one i know say they had one



You're a cool dude, Walt, and naturally, you attract cool crowd. Don't worry about corked wines that much, it's not spoiled fish and won't kill you.

Unlike you, I know and love corked wine. If I could, I'd only drink corked wines. Unfortunately, with only 10 percent of total production being corked, the odds are not in my favor, as you understand. Which means I have to lower my standards and reduce myself to drinking non-corked wines every night, hoping each time for the magical moment and the first whiff of fruit tightly wrapped in a moldy straight jacket. Oh, believe me, I pinch my nose tight with every sip...
quote:
Originally posted by grunhauser:
quote:
Originally posted by Walt:
i've never had a corked bottle or heard any one i know say they had one



You're a cool dude, Walt, and naturally, you attract cool crowd. Don't worry about corked wines that much, it's not spoiled fish and won't kill you.

Unlike you, I know and love corked wine. If I could, I'd only drink corked wines. Unfortunately, with only 10 percent of total production being corked, the odds are not in my favor, as you understand. Which means I have to lower my standards and reduce myself to drinking non-corked wines every night, hoping each time for the magical moment and the first whiff of fruit tightly wrapped in a moldy straight jacket. Oh, believe me, I pinch my nose tight with every sip...
From now on I'm going to pour a little of each new bottle into Rosies bowl before i try it.She has a Jacobson'e organ and Her sense of smell is 500 times as acute as a humans or about 1000 times as acute as mine.I'f she gives me the tail wag I'll figure it's safe and bottoms up. Spoiled fish could kill me,I'm cutting out the nuc maum.
!@#@#$% now I've got another thing to worry about!
i would add some infos still missing in this topic:

i do understand that someone that has been in wine for only 9 months, has not the experience, to divers different tastes that are close to the one is called "kork".
and there are different mistakes a wine can have, "kork-aroma" is only one of them.

sharpe,
kork-aroma is called a substance named TCA
"tri-chlor-anisol", this has unfortunatly one of the most aromatic-power. 5ng/l is tastable for a human as a "wrong-taste". that meens that 1 gramm clean TCA is tastable in 20'000'000 liter water or other liqids Eek, it is known as one of the most powerfull aromatics!

knowing that, it is easy to figure out how you find out if the "wrong-aroma" in youre wine is
"kork" meening TCA, or not.
you have to drop some wine in a large bowl and add quite allot of fresh water, to dilute it strongly (other aromas do disapere or will get almost untastable, but not TCA.

this is the best way to do, to taste TCA (if you don't have a gas-chromatograph) Wink

hope this helped Big Grin
quote:
Originally posted by tsunami:
i would add some infos still missing in this topic:

i do understand that someone that has been in wine for only 9 months, has not the experience, to divers different tastes that are close to the one is called "kork".
and there are different mistakes a wine can have, "kork-aroma" is only one of them.

sharpe,
kork-aroma is called a substance named TCA
"tri-chlor-anisol", this has unfortunatly one of the most aromatic-power. 5ng/l is tastable for a human as a "wrong-taste". that meens that 1 gramm clean TCA is tastable in 20'000'000 liter water or other liqids Eek, it is known as one of the most powerfull aromatics!

knowing that, it is easy to figure out how you find out if the "wrong-aroma" in youre wine is
"kork" meening TCA, or not.
you have to drop some wine in a large bowl and add quite allot of fresh water, to dilute it strongly (other aromas do disapere or will get almost untastable, but not TCA.

this is the best way to do, to taste TCA (if you don't have a gas-chromatograph) Wink

hope this helped Big Grin
Very helpful post .
My wife and I very recently have gotten into exploring wines. My new favorite summer wine has been Sav Blancs. A few weeks ago we had purchased a bottle of Frog's Leap. It was a hot day and I poured our glasses. I was anticipating the fruit smell of the wine but instead received the smell (as my wife put it) dirty socks! It did smell like musty wet cardboard and a taste to match.

I was actually glad to have the experience just so I know what a corked wine is like. The wine store gladly exchanged the bottle for us and we very much enjoyed the un-corked bottle!
To best describe the almost corked taste you are experiencing, the best way to explain would be that wine doesn't immediately become corked and you could have purchased the wine soon after it has become oxidized. Also pay close attention to where you purchase your wine from, be sure there is no direct sunlight on the bottles, heat is an enemy of Wine and Wine lovers.
Remember: At the bottom of every cork is the beginning of new memories
Are there other descriptors for "corked" wine? I've had a couple bottles where the taste and smell was "off" - but did not get moldy/wet newspapers. I don't think the wines were cooked as the bottles and seals were in good shape. But after a couple sips it was obvious that the wines were not drinkable.
B Squad

There are a number of factors that can adversely affect wine.

TCA: Wet cardboard/wet dog, muted fruit. Caused by TCA from the cork, or sometimes from the winery. Can't be avoided.

Brett: Baryard and Bandaid flavours. From Brettonomyces bacteria. Tasting notes may indicate the presence of Brett. Some people actually like low levels of Brett.

Sulphides: At worst a burnt rubber smell. From adding too much H2S, which is used to combat Brett: Some reports indicate that screw cap wines are more sensitive to H2S than cork closed wines. Tasting notes may indicate presence of Sulphides, but it is a problem that worsens in the bottle. Sometimes wine that display Sulphides on opening can have the Sulphides characteristics removed by allowing the wine to breathe for 20 minutes or so.

Oxidation: This happens when the cork is not airtight. The wine becomes oxidised, often describes as madeirised. The fruit flavours will tasted old and worn out. Can be ovoided by checking for seepage from the cork.

Cooked: From wine being stored in high heat. Oxidisation may occur as well in these conditions, but the wine will taste as though it has been, well, cooked. Can be avoided by buying wine that has not been transported in summer. If a wine's cork has been pushed out that's a good indication that the wine has been cooked.

Then there are a number of more esoteric bacteria and bugs that can affect wine but I've listed the main ones.

The other issue is that the wine is just plain bad. More of a problem with European producers than the industrial producers from the new world. Whatever the criticisms of industrial wine about a sameness and lack of identity, the industrial process is very good at preventing flaws getting into the bottle.
Various wine shows have been tracking the number of corked bottles opened, There seems to be a consistent rate of 6-7% of wines opened being affected by TCA according to the experts.

Certainly not all wine is so badly tainted that the wine is undrinkable, often it's more of a "this wine isn't as fabulous as I thought it would be"
Although I've only encountered a handful of bottles that were corked, I think the 6 to 10 percent figure may be accurate.

If you consider that there are millions of bottles with corks produced each year, each of us has access to a mere fraction of that amount. Thus, it's statistically possible to observe a smaller number of corked wines, just as it would be possible for one to observe a larger number of corked wines.

Think of it this way. If you put 100 people in a room and ask them to flip a coin and record whether it comes up heads or tails 100 times, the average in the room should be 50% heads and 50% tails. But someone in that room could have the experience of having heads come up 75% or even 100% of the time.

We should also keep in mind that many of the corks are synthetic although they look an awful lot like real corks, I believe.

Just my $.02...either way, I appreciate when a winemaker chooses a non-real cork enclosure. I'm interested in the good stuff in the bottle, not the romance of pulling a cork out of the bottle.
Will, I think you missed the point here. This isn't an issue of statistical uncertainty given small sample sizes. Otherwise, we'd be hearing from an equal number of people who've experienced 15 to 20%+ corked wines as those who've said they've never detected one.

The real "uncertainty" regarding cork taint is perceptibility of the TCA by the average wine drinker. And I'll confess to being among those who've never identified a bottle as specifically corked "although I've had my sneaking suspicions). Which has made me consider buying one of those aroma kits on wine faults to help me identify them, but I've been held back by the consistent lament from those who detect it now that ignorance was bliss. Razz

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