What is Cork Taint?

What is Cork Taint?

Cork taint is an issue that can occur with even the finest wines. You may have gotten a bottle of wine and uncorked it only to notice a musty smell. What is this smell and why is it there? Wines such as this, with an unusual “damp” smell, are often called “corky,” or wine that has “cork taint.”

Cork taint refers to the presence of TCA, which is scientifically known as 2,4,6-trichloroanisole. This is a chemical compound that can form with the presence of plant phenols, mold, and chlorine. TCA can form on corks (typically the natural corks, not synthetic) and can then end up in the bottle of wine. It doesn’t actually have to originate from the cork itself—it can actually be from damp areas around the wine, such as barrels, cardboard casing, wooden pallets and even cleaning products used at the winery. Cellar taint can ruin an entire collection of wine from a winery, which is why these locations need to make sure that their cellars are clean and free from dampness and other conditions that can cause TCA levels to rise and effect the wine stored in the cellar.

TCA can ruin the flavor and smell of a bottle of wine as it can greatly affect the taste. Wines that are typically full and fruity may now possess the musty, damp smell that can turn most anyone off to the entire bottle of wine. Even in lower levels, TCA can still affect the flavor even if it is not easy to smell or detect. TCA can be consumed as it does not pose a risk to wine drinkers, but it isn’t exactly delightful, either!

It is believed that anywhere from one percent to fifteen percent of wines are affected by cork taint, or a presence of TCA. However, there is no legal regulation when it comes to TCA levels, so it is a good idea to make sure you receive your bottles of wine from reputable wineries and cellars to ensure protection from this wine-ruining chemical compound.

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