What is a corked wine?

So, you've probably heard someone all too excitedly exclaim, "This wine is corked," only to realize that that means the wine you paid thirty dollars for tastes like wet garbage. Gee, thanks, smart-a**. Well, most people think, corked wine is when the cork breaks and there are bits of cork floating in the wine; This is NOT what a corked wine is. You can easily remove those bits, like I did one holiday.

Wine cork taint

This stuff is gross. There is a naturally occurring fungus, like microbes, is everywhere and unavoidable -- This stuff combines with cleaning-use bleach used at wineries and forms a chemical compound called trichloroanisole (TCA). This contamination is referred to as cork taint, and it can actually spread from cork to cork.

How do you identify a corked wine?

Corked wines smell and taste like a musty old basement. Other people say it's more like wet cardboard or wet dog. When you are buying a bottle of wine at a halfway decent restaurant they'll offer you a taste, cork taint is one of the main reasons we do this. And, in fact if you tell them that it's corked, they'll get you another. If you end up buying one from a wine shop or an online retailer there is usually a way to return it, knowing that this happens sometimes, and is unavoidable.

How do you avoid corked wines?

Well, screw caps are immune -- so, you can start there. Corked wines are becoming more and more of a rarity these days so it's not really something you should be thinking about on a regular basis. If, however, you store wine in your home, restaurant or elsewhere you'll want to make sure you keep cleaning products away from your wines with corks; but, my best advice is to not keep wine for very long on racks. Stop stockpiling, and drink your wine.