Cork Taint

Yes, it’s actually called that.

The majority of people that I hang around with believe that a wine is “corked” if there are pieces of cork floating in the bottle. This is not true!

It is also not “corked” if your cork is covered in little white crystals.

If your wine was a screw top, or has a synthetic cork, then it cannot be corked.

And you can’t tell by smelling the cork either.


So what is it?

Corked wine is actually wine that has been contaminated with cork taint.

Cork taint is undesirable smells or tastes found in a bottle of wine. Six chemical compounds, TCA, have been found to contribute to cork taint.

Little microorganisms like to eat cork, since it is a natural substance. This causes TCA to appear and ruin the wine.

So how do you know?

The smell is often described as moldy, musty, earthy, medicinal, or sometimes even like a wet dog. The wine will taste flat and dull.

Only 5% of wine is actually corked.

Corked wine causes no health threat. You could drink it, but it’s probably gross.

By the way-

This doesn’t mean your wine isn’t bad. Here are other things that could have gone wrong:

Oxidized wine- Too much oxygen. Your wine will lose colour and flavor.

Sulfur compounds- Sulfur is commonly added to wine to prevent other ailments to your beverage. If you smell rotten egg, asparagus, skunk or burnt tires, something probably went wrong with the sulphur levels.

Secondary fermentation- When your wine is bubbly but it shouldn’t be. This usually happens when the residual sugar in the bottled wine feeds some critter introduced in unsanitary bottling.

Heat damage- aka cooked wine, not to be confused with corked wine.

When your wine goes sun tanning for too long. Your wine will smell jammy. An easy way to tell if this happened is if the cork is pushed up.

UV light damage- Damage caused by exposure to excessive radiation, usually UV. Most commonly from storing wine in the sun or near a window. Usually effects delicate white wines.

Microbial Taints- when you think something is growing in your wine.

Commonly caused by a bad strain of yeast. It will just taste bad. There literally could be a critter and it’s excrements in there, so don’t drink it!