how to tell if wine is corked

How can you tell if a wine is corked?

Here’s some good news: it has recently been announced that two of the largest producers of corks have discovered how to guarantee ‘no taint’ corks for customers… and at no extra cost.

The issue with corking wine

The problem had been that micro-organisms in the veins in the cork could give an unpleasant taste to the wine. The one solution had been to cut out these veins, but this was a very expensive process.

Some years ago, it was calculated that as many as one in ten bottles of wine were affected. This led to producers in a number of countries, particularly New Zealand, to abandon corks altogether and turn to screw-caps.

This, in turn, led to the Portuguese cork producers saying that their country’s eco-system was at risk if wine bottles were no longer corked. (Whilst there are many alternative uses for cork, it appears that the wine-trade is the most profitable outlet!)

How can you tell if a wine is corked?

It is unlikely, nowadays, that you will come across a bottle of ‘corked’ wine, but it normally can be recognised as a dirty smell on the nose. (There might well be alternative reasons for this, such as dirty casks or filter pads.)

What do you do if you are unhappy with the wine?

Ask the waiter to taste the wine and, if this seems to be beyond his or her competence, ask for the opinion of the manager or owner.

Some years ago, I did just this in a country restaurant in Mallorca after coming across a most outrageously corked bottle of wine. The owner, a woman of generous proportions, responded by telling me that we English knew nothing about wine and if it was too strong for us, we should mix it with lemonade. That was a restaurant that I did not re-visit!

If you are unhappy with a bottle of wine on the grounds that you don’t think it tastes right, do not hesitate to refuse it.

However just the fact that you do not like the wine, is not sufficient grounds for sending the bottle back.

Again some years ago, I was dining in a gastropub in Surrey, when I was intrigued to hear the Hooray Henry sitting at the next table, say to his girlfriend, “I always send the first bottle back. It shows who’s in charge.”

Let’s raise our glass to the death of the corked bottle!

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