The biggest complaint about cork is “cork taint” or “corked wine” What this refers to is a wine fault. There is a noticeable odor that is often described as “moldy newspaper”, “wet dog”…or to me “chlorine”. This is a chemical reaction caused by 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA). However, in recent years major cork producers have developed methods that remove most TCA from natural wine corks. It’s now thought that TCA may actually occur in the barreling process.
When you are in a restaurant, and the Sommelier hands you the cork, what are you suppose to do? Don’t bother smelling the cork, it won’t tell you anything. But do look at it. You can tell several things from a cork. Many are marked with the place the cork was made, as well as the winery the wine came from. The narrower and more misshapen the cork, the longer the cork has been in the bottle. You should also look at the “mirror” (the portion of the cork that has been in contact with the wine). Sometimes you will see small crystals - this is not broken glass, but merely tartrates (or “wine diamonds”), a harmless substance sometimes found in wine that hasn’t been cold stabilized. Also, if the wine has stained up the side of the cork, this may be an indication that the cork has failed, and the wine might be oxidized.
Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the other wine stoppers, and let you determine which you prefer.