Thursday, September 07, 2006


I’ve heard about wines that can turn bad from tainted corks, but I hoped I would be spared. I wasn’t so lucky. Recently, I opened a much-anticipated dessert wine only to have my heart drop when the cork came out and I saw that it was discolored. Hoping it was just wet from the wine and my eyes were playing tricks in the dim light, I poured the wine into glasses. By the time I took a sniff, I knew it was finally my turn to experience the dreaded cork taint. Phew! It smelled like mouldy fruit and soggy cardboard or, as my boyfriend noted, like a dirty sauna. Curiosity made me take a tiny sip. It tasted worse than it smelled. One more reason to like alternative closures, such as synthetic corks and screwcaps.

So, what to do if you encounter a wine ruined by cork taint? Don’t drink it because it’ll taste like crap (though, it won’t make you literally sick). If you’re in a restaurant ask the sommelier or server to taste the wine so they can confirm that the wine is off. Any decent restaurant will replace the offending bottle. The same goes for oxidized wine, where air has seeped in and deteriorated the wine. Wines can taste bad for several reasons, from improper storage conditions to being poorly made. Just say no to swill!

If you’ve bought the bottle at a store or local winery take it back. One sniff of the wine and they should exchange it for you. If they don’t, I wouldn’t be spending my money there any longer.

I’m glad I hadn’t taken the dessert wine to our friends’ house, but if I did I would’ve explained why it can’t be served. Though, I’d let them have a taste, if they were so brave.

What if I was served corked wine at someone’s house? I imagine it’d be tricky to tell someone the wine they’re serving is off. I’d take them aside, be polite and tactfully ask if they can taste what I taste. Sometimes cork taint isn’t so obvious. If my friend insists the wine’s fine, I wouldn’t argue. I’d just find something else to drink.

Cork taint isn’t the wineries fault, so be nice. It doesn’t mean that all their wines will be bad, so give them another try. It does happen (approximately 5% of all wines, though numbers vary significantly, depending on the source), so learn to distinguish bad wines and most importantly, never, ever accept ruined wines.

Hope you’re spared, but if not, you know what to do. Cheers!


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