Here's how to tell if your bottle of wine is 'corked' and what it means

9 August 2018, 16:40

Wine cork
Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

If you're not a total wine connoisseur, and just like drinking a glass every now and then, you might not know if and when a bottle has gone 'off'.

You may even have a pal who has once declared that a bottle is 'corked'.

So, what exactly does that mean and how can you spot it yourself without taking a course in being a sommelier?

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Well, corked wine isn't actually when it has pieces of cork in it, but actually refers to wine contaminated by cork taint – a chemical called TCA.

TCA arises when the cork used in the wine has a certain type of natural funghi present, that reacts with chlorine sterilisation products used in the production process. Some wineries have stopped using chlorine to avoid wine becoming corked altogether.

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In terms of spotting corked wine, you'll usually be able to tell from the dodgy taste. It can be described as rather damp or soggy.

While corked wine isn’t harmful to drink, it basically ruins the taste. But some people might not notice a corked wine if they don't drink it too often, while others may be able to tell from the smell alone.

Apparently, up to 8% of wines would be corked in the late 20th century, which probably led to the rise of screw tops at supermarkets.

However, it is still unavoidable in some cases, as the fungi that causes it is a natural occurrence. Some sellers or restaurants will let you to return a corked bottle, but make sure you're accurate in your detection skills to avoid looking rather foolish!