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How can you tell if a bottle of wine is corked?

If you are a wine lover you’ve probably heard the term ‘corked wine’. However, many wine drinkers wonder if they can detect a corked wine.

It can be easy in some cases to detect, while tricky in others. Let us find out more about this commonly used term and what it does to your tasty and aromatic wine.

What is Corked Wine?

There is a myth attached to corked wine. Many people believe that a corked wine has small pieces of broken cork floating in it and that affects the flavor.

The reality is quite different. A corked wine is a contaminated wine that has lost its taste and aroma due to being tainted by the cork. A tainted cork is the result of a chemical reaction between natural fungi and chlorides. This chemical reaction forms a compound called TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole).

Presence of Fungi and Chlorides

Now, the question is how do these two elements get into your wine!

The cork is made from the cork tree. These trees have many fungi naturally growing on them. The fungi can be transferred to corks made out of these trees.

How does chlorides get into wine?

Manufacturing wine involves a cleaning and sterilization processes. Chemical bleaches used in these processes can contain chlorides. That is how chlorides get inside the wineries and later react with the fungi present in the cork to make your wine corky.

Characteristics of a Corked Wine

There are some characteristics that help in detecting if a wine is corked.

  1. Corked wine will lose its characteristic aroma and will smell like damp cardboard. However, the level of contamination can not necessarily be detected by smell alone.
  2. The taste of the wine reveals the truth. The wine would taste flat and even undesirably foul.

Are all spoiled wines corked?

No. However, the term has gained so much popularity (or unpopularity) that any wine that smells and tastes flat or foul is deemed corked.

Wine may also lose its smell and taste if it gets exposed to oxygen or heat leading to its oxidization or maderisation.


Now you know about corked wine and how to detect it through smell and taste.

The next time you find an awful tasting wine smelling like soggy cardboard you may well assume that you have been served a corked wine.

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