When your wine is Corked

Posted in Wine on 12/11/2009
When your wine is Corked Unless there has been a terminal failure in the seal, with closures like screw caps there is generally not enough time for the time for the wine to become faulty. Considering the way that wine is transported and stored these days, with a short shelf life and refrigerated to ideal temperatures, unless they have been hideously stored by a wine shop you can be much happier that the wine you are about to serve is more likely to be healthy.

But how do you spot if you’ve picked out that unlucky bottle? In the next series of blogs L’Ortolan Sommelier Stephen Nisbet will explain how to spot the first of the three most common wine faults that could wreck your dinner party.

Corked
"Now it may sound obvious, but a wine can only be corked if there is a cork in the bottle. I’ve come across it many times that if people aren’t sure about the wine, they suggested that their bottle is corked – but if it hasn’t got a cork then it is impossible.

Some people suggest that younger wines are less likely to be corked, but the truth is that wine can be corked whether it is one year old or twenty-one years old. A faulty cork is indiscriminate of age!

To dispel a myth right here, corked wine is not a wine with bits of cork floating in it, but wine contaminated by an unclean stopper.

Careful where you smell
If your wine is corked then there is one trait that will come shining through when you open your bottle, and that is the smell of wet newspaper or damp cardboard from the wine itself. Do not smell the top of the bottle – obviously the cork has been in contact with the neck of the bottle for a time, so that is bound to smell of cork – you should instead pour the wine into a glass and smell the actual wine itself.

The best way to do this is to pour gently with no glugging. Do not stir the wine in the glass, but rather just lift the glass up to your nose and let the fragrance of the wine come up and reach your nostrils.

If there is no smell at first then this is actually better as this means that the wine is probably healthy, but if straight away you get one of these smells that we discuss in this blog series then you’ve got a fault. As soon as you stir you get all of the notes in the wine going and then it gets much less easy to detect any fault.

Very unlucky
If you are hit with multiple faults, because the corking element is so pervasive is this what you will smell first – it is thought that you can notice the corked part in as low a concentration as two parts per million. So if you smell wet newspaper, or cardboard then you can know with 100% certainty that your wine is corked, and you should be reaching for your back up bottle to serve your guests.”

Next Time: Stephen considers the effect of Oxidation