Saturday, August 30, 2008

Corked Wine

"Cork taint" or "corked" wine is the most common flaw in wine, affecting somewhere around 5% of wine that is bottled with a cork closure. Wine that is closed with a screw top or plastic "cork" will never be affected with cork taint. A chemical associated with the cork gives the wine a musty odour - if your wine smells like your attic or basement, it's corked. It mostly affects the smell of the wine. Once you know what it smells like, you'll be able to tell whether a wine is corked a the first sniff, without tasting it at all. Actually drinking the wine doesn't help identify cork taint at all. The degree of cork taint can vary - some wines are badly corked and other only slightly affected - and different people are more or less sensitive to cork taint. If a wine is mildly corked it's not surprising if one person thinks it's undrinkable while someone else doesn't notice much wrong. But if the taint is strong, just about everyone will notice and object. Cork taint will dissipate somewhat with exposure to air. If the cork taint is mild and you're not very sensitive, you find the wine perfectly drinkable, at least for a BBQ, after it breathes for a while. But if not, don't worry - in my experience NB Liquor has an excellent return policy. If you buy a bottle that turns out to be corked, just take it back and I've always found them to be happy to exchange the bottle or refund your money. Cork taint is unpredictable - one bottle may be corked, but a bottle of the same wine next to it on the shelf may be fine. So if you liked the wine apart from the cork taint, it's worth exchanging it for another bottle. Cork taint is more of a problem if you have an expensive bottle of wine that you've been saving for a few years. I don't really know how ANBL feels about taking back wine that is no longer listed, and in any event, if that special bottle is corked, you won't be able to get another bottle of the same wine. That's why we're starting to see screw tops on expensive wines - though there's still some debate as to how well wine will age with a screw top.


  1. So what the policy on Screw top wine that is tainted. My boyfriend and I bought a bottle of Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir not long ago. The wine was definitely "off". It was extremely bitter and undrinkable. It certainly tasted nothing close to the description on the bottle. We weren't certain whether they would accept a screw cap wine back. We end up just pouring it down the drain.

  2. My experience has been that ANBL has an excellent return policy in cases where the wine is actually flawed. I'm sure you could have taken that bottle back without any difficulty.