Is your wine corked?
As we open more and more bottles of wine and amass more and more tasting notes, it is (almost) inevitable that at one point or another we will encounter a corked or flawed bottle.
But what exactly is this "corked" bottle issue and why does there seem to be an almost mysterious, general blurred explanation as to determining a faulted wine bottle?
TCA, or Trichloroanisole, is a non toxic chemical compound found in some natural corks that, when present in high quantities, can diminish or alter a wine's character or quality. It usually imparts wet, moldy smells, (think of wet basement or damp newspaper), to wet wool, burnt match or even “wet dog”, as some describe, in the most extreme of examples!
Although TCA is not the only fault to be found in cork finished bottles, the term "corked" has almost universally become a vague term for all flaws in wine. The main problem here is that few wine drinkers are actually able to recognize these flaws, and here lies the problem: unless someone knows exactly how a particular wine should taste, it can be very hard to tell if something is not right. Even trained wine tasters with years of experience can find it difficult to pick up on mildly corked wines, although some people are particularly sensitive to trace amounts of TCA.
Some flaws are easier to spot than others, as is the case with oxidation, which most times is very obvious in young white wines, that show particularly deep yellow to gold colors, and can taste and smell like Sherry, apple sauce or walnuts, instead of a correct, light pale appearance and ripe, fresh fruit aromas. Red wines can also present oxidation, but can be harder to detect. Oxidation occurs when wine is exposed to oxygen: prematurely if it happens in a young wine, or over time in an older wine. This is why you see wine collectors investing in cellars and equipment to keep their bottles at cool, constant temperatures, such as 55F, which seems to be the ideal setting that allows for long term cellaring and slowing down the aging process inside a bottle of wine.