It is easily said that if a wine smells corky you notice it straightaway, but this is not always like this. It happens to all of us that we are unable to smell it while the people sitting at the table are convinced of it, or that we realise that something is wrong with the smell of a wine without being able to specify the cause. For this reason, many people don't like to do the tasting in restaurants.
10 + 1 tips to understand more and not to be afraid about tasting at the restaurant.
1. Why does wine taste 'corked'?
This problem democratically affects all bottles, whatever their type and price. The smell is due to a fungus attacking the cork (or even affecting the barrels before bottling). TCA is the name of the offending molecule that gives rise to the smell. It is estimated that between 1 and 10% of bottles corked with cork may be affected.
2. How to practise recognising it?
The wine will have an acrid smell, more or less strong, resembling mainly the smell of wet cardboard, but also damp earth, mould and the dog after a nice walk in the rain. This smell covers all the other scents, of fruit, flowers, wood... More precisely, the molecule itself prevents them from being perceived.
3. Can you notice it at first smell?
Usually yes, the cork defect can be smelled quite clearly, sniffing it, because the smell is quite strong. For more experienced noses, you can also tell just from the cork (but for this you need a bit of luck and having tasted several bottles in your career). However, the first sensation in the nose is usually the right one.
4. What if I am not 100% sure?
Wasting a wine is a pity: you have to be sure. Let a few seconds pass, to avoid habituation and forgetting the first sensations, and smell again.
5. Other elements to consider?
The smell could be matched by a visible defect in the cork, so also check if the cork is damaged.
6. What does the wine look like on tasting?
At the sip you have the litmus test: if it tastes corked, the taste will be bitter and mouldy, very unpleasant.
- Read also: How to taste wine
7. What if I see pieces of cork in the wine?
This problem is not related to the corky taste, it is just a sign that the bottle has not been opened perfectly. An easy and practical guide on how to uncork correctly can be found here.
8. How can I avoid throwing away the precious bottle?
If the problem is not too pronounced, you can use the wine for cooking: the corky smell tends to evaporate during cooking. But if the acrid taste is highly developed, definitely water it down.
9. How to practise recognising it?
Sooner or later it happens to everyone to find a bottle with this problem. If you want to practise recognising it, just take some wood shavings and put them in a closed jar with water and sniff after a few days. To distinguish it from other wine defects, we have written another small guide.
10. Can it be prevented with conservation?
Preventing it is difficult but it is recommended not to keep bottles in the refrigerator for long because the bacterium loves cold and damp.
WHAT TO DO, THEN?
At the restaurant, if it tastes corky, have the bottle changed. All you need to do is read here if you don't want to make a mistake when tasting wine in a restaurant.