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Oct 5, 2006 10:55 PM

Need help deciphering term in food review (Corked Wine) [moved from General Topics]

In today's LAT there was a review where I came across a term that I wasn't familiar with. I hope you Hounds can help.

The reviewer was talking about her wine. She was upset because when she sampled the wine that was just opened in front of her, she said it was obviously, 'Corked'. She called the waiter over, who sipped it, and declared it 'corked' as well.

Am I missing something obvious here? What was the reviewer talking about?


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  1. the cork in the bottle had dried out causing air to get in the bottle and cause the wine to oxidize.

    1. Basically it's rotten wine. Corks are natural material and hence can spoil and let air in and ruin a bottle of wine.


      1. Byrd,
        Your answer is way off base. I am sure it is well intended but incorrect. "Corked" refers to a wine that is tainted with TCA which gives it an aroma that frequently smells like wet cardboard. It has nothing to do with letting air in.
        It happens in percentage of wines, depending on who you believe, ranging from 4-10% of the time. This is the reason you are seeing many screwcap (Stelvin technically) and synthetic corks these days.

        6 Replies
          1. re: Winemark

            I thought the reason we are seeing screw tops and synthetic corks is because cork trees, which are predominantly from Spain and Portugal are becoming less available.

            1. re: jjb75

              Screw caps etc are in part a trend due to the over harvesting of cork forests. However talking to many winery owners they are recognizing Stelvin in particular as the best and most consistent way to keep their wines in perfect shape. This is a trend mostly for younger, short term drinking wines. The spread of this trend will take the heat off cork forests and allow them to return to producing high quality corks, which I believe, will always have a home in the top wines of the world.

              1. re: Winemark

                Why? Why is cork somehow superior? The only reason that cork is being used today is that there were no Stelvin closures in the 1800s.

                How would you feel if you opened a bottle of 61 Mouton that you'd paid big bucks for and it was corked? Why subject fine wines to inferior closures?

                Nothing personal here, your comments have been very informative, but I am always surprised at the attachment of knowledgable wine lovers to corks.


                1. re: Ed Dibble

                  Hi Ed,
                  Thanks for the nice compliment. I am not attatched to corks. I do feel the top wines will go with them as they are a known effective closure that allows minute amounts of air in. While this sounds bad the jury is still out on the aging issue. There is a school that believes stelvin will stall any aging and that wines need a slightly porous seal to allow tiny amounts of air in.
                  From a personal stand point I love Stelvin. I do think that the wine collecting world is not ready to accept Lafite in Stelvin which is why I finished my previous post with what may have seemed like a nod to Corks

                  1. re: Winemark

                    Randall Grahm says there is some oxygen exchange, comparable to a magnum or double magnum.


          2. Fully 5% (maybe 10%) of wine bottled with corks goes bad. This tainted wine is referred to as being "corked". There is a fungus that infects corks and it passes on an unpalatable flavour of old socks and moldy cheese to wines.
            This is the main reason that screw tops are becoming popular. They work and they mean lower production costs for the producer. We are now seeing high end wines with screw tops (they refer to them as Stelvin Closures). Check St Hallets of the Barossa Valley, Bonny Doon and many others.
            I must also acknowledge that the cork supply is unable to keep up with growing demand for wine. Once cork is harvested from the tree, it takes 10 years for the tee to recover enough to be re-harvested. Due to demand, the cork trees are being re-harvested at 8 or 9 years and the quality of the cork is becoming suspect. This is also contributing to "corked" wines.
            I must also acknowledge another problem: that of fashion conscious, status seeking, ignorant assholes who feel the need to send back a bottle just to be cool and impress their friend(s). This is a problem because no good waiter will argue with a customer about it. The risk isn't worth it especially if the customer is a food critic looking to establish their creds.
            For some fun and further information go to and then to
            for all the relevant information you need on this subject.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Da_Cook

              I agree with you totally. You discribe it better, to me it always tasted like moldy wine. ICK!

              1. re: Da_Cook

                It may seem like harvesting corks would be bad for trees/environment, but environmental groups actually support cork closures. Cork is a renewable resource and birds and animals can make homes in cork forests. When the demand for cork falls off, landowners have incentive to cut down the cork trees to grow something else, possibly destroying habitats for many creatures. Stelvin closures and synthetic corks use plastic i.e. fossil fuels!


                1. re: Winemark

                  >>Stelvin is aluminum not plastic.<<

                  The liner isn't plastic?

                  (Edit: The post to which this was a reply has been deleted. Either that or I've had too much to drink...)

                  1. re: Winemark

                    And doesn't the presence of the plastic liner make the aluminum for all intents and purposes unrecyclable? (Not a leading question; I really don't know the answer.)

                    1. re: carswell

                      Not exactly sure but the essence of the first post was that it is a plastic product. I am just dissapointed that they felt it necessary to delete a fairly benign post

                      1. re: Winemark

                        >>the essence of the first post was that it is a plastic product<<

                        In kenito799's defence, s/he said "Stelvin closures and synthetic corks use plastic," which is entirely accurate.

                        The recyclability issue bugs me, but not nearly as much as opening a bottle I paid $30 or $40 for 15 years ago (meaning I can't return it) -- and that would cost six or seven or, in a few cases, 20 times as much to replace today -- and finding it obscenely corked.

                        1. re: carswell

                          While you are correct I find it to be splitting hairs given the amount of plastic used in Stelvin closures. The inference here is that Stelvin is plastic.

                          1. re: Winemark

                            Stelvin closures are not plastic, but they do use plastic, not a lot of it, obviously. I doubt it hinders recyclability of the bottles, but whether glass recycling makes much environmental impact (apart from reducing litter) is debatable; collecting and reprocessing glass uses energy i.e. usually fossil fuels.

                            But to restate the environmental argument for corks, they create a demand for the maintenance of cork forests, which serve as wild habitats. Removal of cork forests for other agricultural use may result in destruction of already sparse European forest land, critical habitat for threatened bird and other animal species.

              2. This is the reason that sommelieres present the cork to the person who ordered the wine: You're suppoesed to look at it -- not smell it. If the cork looks shriveled or corroded, the wine is definitely "corked" (vile tasting).

                2 Replies
                1. re: pikawicca

                  Not to be a jerk here but a perfect looking cork can have a TCA taint. Hugh Johnson MW explained once that corks were presented as a sign of authenticity. When Phylloxera ravaged Europe the enormous amount of counterfit wine shipped in from North Africa and labeled as Bordeaux made top chateau brand their corks which would then be presented to the diners as a sign of authenticity. Proper Soms of the old school frequently will not present corks at all as they are supposed to taste the wines before they are brought to the table. It is their job to ensure good wine is presented not the consumers.

                  1. re: Winemark

                    "perfect looking cork can have a TCA taint."

                    It's also worth pointing out the opposite: that an ugly cork does not necessarily indicate corked wine or any other flaw. Corks can get old, crumbly, stained, etc. when they get old. While seeing this should alert the consumer that there may be problems with leakage, oxidation, or other issues (so pay close attention when you are given the sample by the server), it's entirely possible that the wine will be perfectly fine.