How Do You Know a Wine Is Corked (& How Do You Send It Back)?

Categories: Wine Time

how_do_you_tell_a_wine_is_corked.jpg
Photo by Tracie Parzen
Conservative studies estimate that 5 to 6 percent of wine is affected by some sort of defect. That's roughly one in 20 bottles.
Click here for previous entries in our "how-to wine" series.

The following is a true story.

A few years ago, my wife, Tracie P -- then a wine sales rep -- and I were running late for a dinner with the upper-echelon management team of the company for whom she worked, one of the major players in the Texas wine scene.

We were stressed. We weren't just having dinner with her boss; we were having dinner with the boss of her boss's boss.

Thanks to a navigation mishap, we arrived 45 minutes late to the swank Dallas restaurant where the dinner was held. The table of ten leading Texas wine professionals had already finished a first bottle of white wine and the group was enjoying a bottle of red, for the record, a vineyard-designated Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

One of the guests poured us each a glass as we sat down. Tracie swirled and sniffed. And then she gestured to me to lean closer.

"The wine is corked," she whispered. "Didn't they notice?"

Of the ten seasoned tasters present, not one had detected the cork taint. After Tracie politely mentioned that she thought the wine was corked, everyone at the table revisited the wine and all agreed: There was no denying that the wine had an unmistakable note of musty cork.

As surprising as it may be, it happens more often than you would imagine. It might be because someone's nose and palate are "off" on a given night. It might be because the chaotic nature of fine dining often distracts even the most sensitive taster. Or it could be owed to the fact that stress -- like that created by having dinner with your boss -- can cloud your ability to evaluate the fitness of a wine.

After all, we weren't sitting in a quiet temperature- and humidity-controlled room at 9 in the morning with well-rested palates.

This story continues on the next page.

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17 comments
Vanessa_T.B.
Vanessa_T.B.

Personally, I always smell the underside of the cork to identify taint.  Smelling the cork does in fact serve a purpose, as that's where the TCA exists, and then infects wine.


blackjackdavid
blackjackdavid

We got a corked bottle of the '09 Damilano Barolo at Coppa Osteria this past week. We notified the server who sent the manager to the table. We asked him to taste it to see if he picked up what we were sniffing. He did, and quickly moved to replace the bottle, tasting first the replacement to make sure it was good. Great service all around.

randonneur
randonneur

Don't smell the cork, smell the wine. Then eat the cork. Or so I'm told.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

Corked or not, you can still catch a good buzz off it.

DoBianchi
DoBianchi

@blackjackdavid  that's great to hear. That's how it should happen. Next week I'll write about how to send a bad bottle back.

DoBianchi
DoBianchi

@Bruce_Are  in many cases, a fault in wine doesn't make it undrinkable. In fact, certain technical flaws are considered tolerable in certain circles (like Natural wine).

donatello
donatello

@DoBianchi @randonneur  

no offense, and I know it's legend in Italy to do this, but it has no beneficial effects, except maybe to the cook's ego

glenda
glenda

@Bruce_Are @donatello  

That's not a typo, it's a trend. And a very sad, annoying trend. Please see the below. 

Please read the beneath.

james.brock
james.brock

@DoBianchi @donatello @randonneur  


The below is from The Splendid Table:



All of these dishes can be readily accomplished by the home cook. The stumbling block, according to reigning "wisdom," is that octopus is so tough that extraordinary measures must be taken to tenderize it. And if you ask five different people what these measures are you are likely to get five different answers, all arcane - which goes a long way toward explaining why no one cooks octopus at home. A Greek cook may tell you to beat it against some rocks (actually a contemporary would probably tell you to throw it against the kitchen sink repeatedly). A Spanish cook will dip it into boiling water three times, then cook it in a copper pot - only copper will do. An Italian might cook it with two corks. The Japanese rub it all over with salt, or knead it with grated daikon, then slice the meat at different angles, with varying strokes.

DoBianchi
DoBianchi

@KaitlinS @DoBianchi @randonneur  some people believe it's just a myth but I've seen so many chefs do it: they throw a cork into the pot with boiling octopus. And, at least according to one chef I used to work with, it doesn't matter if the wine was corked. Some chefs swear by it.

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