Wine guides Wine: Reviews and Suggestions

Cork taint? Information and suggestions

perché il vino sa di tappo - alberi - EFW
Written by EFW Staff

Cork taint? Information and suggestions

Then comes the sommelier who, with studied and calibrated movements, uncork the bottle and sniffs the stopper to see if the wine has been tainted. This is one of the most important operations. It is necessary to be sure that the wine and the stopper haven’t been subjected to changes that can ruin the taste and the scent of wine. Typically, if the stopper smells of wine, there is no problem. If, however, that particular smell reminds that of mold or wet cellar, it is better to will bring back the bottle and offer another one that, hopefully, does not have that flaw.

All in all, it’s more annoying when the corked wine belong to the bottle that you’ve uncorked at home and that come from your cellar. You can hardly bring it back to the shopkeeper and you’ll just have to throw it away.

Whose “fault” is it?

But let’s go back to the initial question: why does the wine is corked? The chemical compound that causes the unpleasant phenomenon is well-known. Its name is trichloroanisole, a molecule made up of carbon, hydrogen, chlorine and oxygen.
The most complex and varied the true reason for this compound to form within the bottle.

The most common reason, or at least scientifically proved, concerns a series of microscopic fungus that can lie in the interstices of the cork itself. The best known is Armillaria mellea, but also Penicillium and Aspergillus can give rise to the phenomenon, as well as some bacteria. These elements combine the phenols with the chlorine-containing compounds to give trichloroanisol.

Precautions to avoid the phenomenon

perché il vino sa di tappo - EFW
The sterilization of the cork is the simplest operation you can think of doing to limit the onset of the phenomena leading to the corked wine. In the past, chlorine was used to “cure” the cork, an operation that certainly favored the presence of this chemical element, among the responsible elements for the annoying sensation.

Today, fortunately, other methods are used, which, however, do not reduce the possibility of the onset of this flaw to zero. There is still a percentages between 1% and 7% of wine bottles.
In the recent years, especially in medium-quality wine, the stoppers are made of silicone instead of cork. It is seen with a certain suspicion from purists: it is sure that synthetic stoppers do not suffer from this problem. Another possibility, especially for medium-low quality wines, is the screw cap. Even in this case, the cork taint can not occur.

Extreme remedies

Suppose you’re at home, you open a bottle of wine and find out the cork taint. Normally you throw it away, among other things, it is also good to replace the glasses used for the tasting, which will surely be “contaminated”. Actually, but here the purists will be likely horrified, there are a couple of extreme tricks that can be attempted to remove the taste of wine cap.
The first is hyperventilation. You pour the wine into a jar and shake it in order to oxygenate properly. To facilitate this action, it is also possible to use electrical tools such as immersion mixers or blenders.

A second possibility to try (it doesn’t cost you almost anything) is based on the alleged affinity of trichloroanisole with polyethylene, material of which are made, for example, the bags to freeze food. Pour the wine into one or more bags of this type and leave for a few minutes, shaking it a bit so that great part of the liquid comes into contact with the walls of the bag. Take it back in a bottle (another, not the original one) or in a decanter and taste. Someone says that this method works very well.

Imagine source: VinoFamily, flickr – Barta IV, flickr – ggianni3, flickr

About the author

EFW Staff