Thursday, 12 September 2013

'Excuse me, Sir! This wine is corked!' Wine Faults


So you reckon your wine is corked.
Is it? Is it really?

We have all been there, at a restaurant or at a party where someone believes a bottle of wine is ‘corked’ and so refuses to drink it. It is especially annoying that most of the time, people have absolutely no idea what a corked bottle of wine smells or tastes like!

So what exactly does it mean for a wine to be corked?

Here are a few small tips and tricks for spotting a genuinely corked bottle, and also a few suggestions on other possible faults.

SCIENCE!
Here's the geeky bit: the main cause of cork taint is from the presence of 2,4,6 Trichloroanisole, a chlorinated derivative of anisole (snigger). Usually this is transmitted from the cork itself, but can just as easily be transferred through the cork after bottling. Some people believe up to 15% of all wines are corked.

So what should you be looking out for? The most prominent giveaway for a corked wine is the smell. The standard way of describing it is similar to that of wet cardboard or newspaper. A musty, damp basement smell. But on the palate the wine may also taste flat and lacking in fruit. Sadly there is little you can do to stop wines becoming corked, or return them back to their normal state.

 However, although it isn't corked, this doesn't mean there isn't a fault with the wine.

Oxidisation is another very common enemy of wine drinkers - although the use of oxygen contact in wine making is widely used to improve the flavours, (especially in Burgundy) too much can ruin it. This tends to give the wine a deeper, brownish colour with aromas of caramel and toffee that will rid the wine of its fresh, fruity character. The main causes of this are usually a closure failure, insufficient sulfur dioxide used at bottling, the wine being too old or leaving the wine upright whilst storing. All wines should be kept on their sides to keep the cork moist to save it from drying out and letting oxygen in, especially those with long drink dates.

 Other possible faults include: Volatile Acidity (causing the wine to smell of vinegar or polish),
 reduction (gives the wine a smell similar to rotten eggs or boiled cabbage but small levels of reduction can add complexity) and of course, the wine simply being too old.

So if you think a wine may be 'off', don't run around with your pants on fire shouting 'It's corked! It's bloody corked!' Understand the differences between wine taints, not only will it make you appreciate the good stuff more (and stop yourself from destroying your liver, we hope), it means you can also be extra stuffy to your stupid 'Oh, there is a piece of cork in my wine, it must be corked!' friend.

Image taken from Vox Fx's photostream under the Creative Commons License.

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