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how often are your wines corked?

these days i'm running at - wild guess - about 1 in 20 for my everyday drinking. it used to be in 1 in 10 not so long ago .. am i lucky or has something changed? (of course this number is modulo plastic corks etc).

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  1. Haven't been documenting it but my WAG for recently purchased wines sealed with natural cork is similar to or a little less than yours. The corked rate is definitely higher for wines from my cellar, i.e. purchased 10 or 20 years ago, which may indicate that it's not luck, that something has changed.

    1. I was running about 1:12, but this was mainly in our "house wines." They have since begun using Stelvin, so the number has dropped. However, I have had 3:48 with recent purchases at a local wine shop & Costco. To date, I've only had one of ANY of my older reds (my biggest fear) over the last 5 years.

      Talking with several winemakers, most feel that the occurance is 1:12, though a few go so high as 1:6. My experience runs in the 1:12 range.

      Hunt

      1. Somewhere between 5-8% . . . the incidence has declined somewhat *not* due to "better" corks, but rather through the use of screwcaps (Stelvins).

        1 Reply
        1. re: zin1953

          As a side-note, I had my first red under Stelvin, the Two Hands, Gnarley Dudes Shiraz. Playing around with this wine, I'd speculate that it was vinted for early-consumption, so all was good. Just my first red with Stelvin - probably many more to come.

          Hunt

        2. 7%-9% of my cork closures wind up corked.

          1. I've never had anything near that many. I've been drinking wine for about six years or so, and in that time I've had three corked bottles at home, another in a restaurant and another in a wine shop tasting. Maybe I've been lucky.

            24 Replies
            1. re: djdebs

              Yes. Consider yourself very lucky.

              1. re: djdebs

                My understanding is that sometimes corked bottles are difficult to identify. The wine tastes dull or boring rather than musty, and you'd never know the problem was that it was corked unless you knew the wine well, or had another bottle to compare it to.

                I've had a similar experience to you, and although I consider myself pretty lucky, I'm thinking it's more likely I didn't know the bottles were corked.

                1. re: oolah

                  2,4,6-trichloranisole is a compound to which human beings are extremely sensitive to -- it is measured in parts per TRILLION. That said, you are absolutely correct that at extremely low levels, a corked wine will seem "dull" and the fruit "muted," rather than overtly smelling of a "musty, dank cellar" or a "wet dog." (And I was thinking the very same thing!) ;^)

                  1. re: zin1953

                    So that brings up an interesting question: are you (and the others on this thread) counting those subtly corked bottles in your total count? 1 in 12 seems REALLY high.

                    For me, the ratio has been about 1 in every 40 bottles. As I said, I may be missing some of the subtly corked wines, but I also tend to drink younger stuff (rarely more than 10 years old), and like jonasblank, buy 99% of my wine from wine shops and restaurants that use quality producers and importers and take good care of their inventory.

                    Can these precautions save you from corked wine?

                    1. re: oolah

                      Sensitivity to TCA varies greatly from person to person. I know people (mostly women) who can detect a tainted bottle when it is uncorked at the other end of the table. I also remember a tasting where a guy with an otherwise demonstrably fine palate was enthusing over and enthusiastically drinking a wine that had everyone else in the room dumping their glasses without taking a sip.

                      With all respect to jonasblank, TCA taint has nothing to do with how a wine is stored or the reputability of wine shops or even the cost or origin of the wine. Its source is the cork and, in my experience, cheap and expensive corks are affected equally. Some of my saddest corked experiences have to do with highfalutin wines: I recall one tasting where a 1982 Margaux, which was then retailing for over $1K and which couldn't be returned since it had been purchased years before, was corked to high heaven.

                      Poor storage can result in damaged wines, most notably cooked wines, but not TCA-tainted bottles.

                      edit: www.chowhound.com/topics/378215

                      1. re: carswell

                        Thanks, carswell. The most likely answer then is what I originally suspected -- that I am not perceiving the cork taint as cork taint, but instead reading it as a dull wine. Seems like I may have to give some wines I've dismissed a second chance.

                        1. re: carswell

                          Well said.

                          My 7%-9% included the slightly corked bottles. I would say the number of bottles I get that are really badly corked is about half of that.

                          I find that women, by and large, have better palates then men, so I'm not surprised that you have found it mostly women that can smell a corked bottle from across the room. Twice, however, I have walked into a room and instantly smelled that a bottle was open and corked.

                        2. re: oolah

                          "Subtly corked" is a bit like being "slightly pregnant." It either is or it isn't, and slightly corked wines may escape detection UNLESS one has a second bottle to try on the spot.

                          In wine competitions, if any one of the judges thinks a wine *may* be tainted with TCA, we ALWAYS get a new bottle to open. With TCA at extremely low concentrations, it is not uncommon for only one of the panel to initially notice the taint -- but when the second bottle is opened, it's obvious to everyone!

                          >>> Can these precautions save you from corked wine? <<<

                          NO, absolutely NOT!

                          1. re: zin1953

                            Just a note on this- especially on older bottles there are a number of deep reds that will appear to be corked in the first little bit, but after being decantered and allowed to sit for an hour or two the symptoms are no longer there. Just be cautious before you end up throwing that 1k bottle of wine down the sink.

                            1. re: zin1953

                              For once, I will have to disagree with you,regarding your first statement. The degree of TCA contamination can vary from almost non-detectable, to "make you fall on your knees." Even as sensitive as I am, there have been a few bottles, that I needed to consult my wine on. She's about 90% as sensitive (to TCA), as I. There have been a few, that exhibited none of the normal characteristics, on the nose, but just were not right. In each of *these* cases, I always had another bottle of the same wine, which confirmed that the acids were not "supposed" to be that elevated, and that there was fruit missing.

                              I feel that a wine can be "a little bit corked," and have experienced it on too many occasions.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                I think you missed my point, or I didn't express myself well -- take your pick (it's probably the latter).

                                As I said in a different post above:

                                >>>> 2,4,6-trichloranisole is a compound to which human beings are extremely sensitive to -- it is measured in parts per TRILLION . . . at extremely low levels, a corked wine will seem "dull" and the fruit "muted," rather than overtly smelling of a "musty, dank cellar" or a "wet dog." <<<<

                                My point in the instant case (that a wine is either corked or it isn't -- there's no such think as being "slightly pregnant") is that no amount of cork taint is acceptable -- even if at very low levels and the fruit is "muted" and/or "dull," the wine is tainted and should be returned. (You can see a woman who is twelve weeks pregnant and still not notice; but she's pregnant nonetheless.)

                                Jason

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  Sorry, I misunderstood. OK, so I'm back to agreeing with you 100%! I see your point, and just missed it above. Thank you for the clarification. I had read that there were no "levels" of pregancy, uh, taint.

                                  Hunt

                            2. re: oolah

                              For me, yes. Any TCA, and the effects of scalping count. I have to admit that I am very sensitive to it, and my wife is just behind me. I doubt that we've ever had a bottle get past us, though a few have taken both to make the final conclusion.

                              As for age, my experience tells me that it's not that relevant to TCA. Most of the examples, that I have encountered have been young wines. In all of my years, I have only had one "corked" older wine, and it was a Southern Rhône red.

                              The volume of "corked" bottles seems to be proportional to the quantity purchased in wine shops, big-box (Costco, in my case) and fine-dining restaurants. I have discussed the topic of shipping, storage, etc. with many winemakers, all of whom had a very vested interest in NOT having "corked" wines. I had thought that the heat in AZ might have had something to do with the higher incident of TCA-taint, than I had experienced in CO. All stated that their returns were the same/quantity shipped, in all states, hot, or cold. Now, this was not a controlled experiment, only conversations with the folk most concerned, and trying to do something about it.

                              Just some observations,
                              Hunt

                            3. re: zin1953

                              Regarding perception of TCA: there is a test that's used to identify your specific threshold for identifying TCA. There is a control “uncontaminated wine”, then other glasses doctored with various levels of TCA to measure just exactly where your threshold is. (Interestingly, I just took this test today!)

                              If you're at all wondering if a wine is corked, or if it is "borderline" corked, two other easy tests can reveal the answer: is the fruit flattened or diminished, and is the acidity low? If these things are true along with that distinctive mustiness (even just a faint whiff of it) the wine is usually corked.

                              Often, I believe, consumers can taste a wine that just seems uninteresting or dull, and not like the wine, or the brand forever, when what they tasted was a corked wine and they weren't able to identify it as such.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                I will often keep a tainted bottle on hand, to share with wine-geek friends, who may not have had the experience, with a name to add to the fault. It does not take much, but friends should not let friends drink "corked" wine.

                                As for sensitivity, I've stopped waiters with trays of wine-by-the-glass, as they passed me in the restaurant, and told them that one, or more, was "corked." I get a ton of Thank Yous, when the bartender, or whomever, confirms my call, and pulls that bottle out of circulation.

                                Hunt

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  Any specifics on how/where one might do such a test? I open maybe 6-700 bottles a year in tastings and have not recognized (nor have the tasters) anything like 6-8% TCA. If it's an issue of perception threshhold or just simply calling it "dull" wine I'd really like to find out more about how to tell the difference. So many wines have musty/dusty noses that are 'supposed' to be that way and their fruit can be subtle to bold. I've smelled what is supposed to be TCA (in one of those Nez du Vin wine fault kits) but I can't say that it did much good for my perception skills.

                                  Can anyone reference any source for a method of getting better at distinguishing this fault?

                                  1. re: Midlife

                                    Years ago, a wine shop was holding a series of tastings. One bottle was "corked." It was passed around for analysis, and the aroma hit me like a ton of bricks. It was something that I never forgot and found that I can pick it up, when most do not, even at a distance. Fortunately, we also had another bottle, that was good, so an A-B comparison was easy and very, very informative. I try to do the same, when confronted with a bad bottle and a crowd, who wants to learn.

                                    I think that the best way to learn about TCA contamination and it effects, is to actually open one and pass it around.

                                    Right now, my poor wife is distraught, because she picked up 6 btls. of white the other day from a small wine shop near us. Of the 6, two were "corked," one a Puligney-Montrachet, the other a Kistler Sonoma Chard. Now she thinks that she's jinxed.

                                    My rough guess is that I was running about 1:12, but then Conundrum went under Stelvin, and the total in the household dropped (wife's recent purchases excepted). I have been given figures from 4% - 12% by winemakers/winery owners, so I guess that my 1:12 wasn't too far off.

                                    BTW, my wife's recent purchase was of 6 totally different wines, however, I do not think that I can ask her to "pick up a few interesting whites, on your way home," at least not for a while.

                                    Are you in a state, that allows shipping? Reason that I ask, is that if I got a corked bottle, that was not worth trip back to the shop for a return, I'd be glad to ship it to you for a "control." However, I do not want to be convicted of a felony, by shipping a corked bottle of wine!

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      I'm in California so, yes I can receive wine shipments. I have had wines that I knew were corked and one that was probably Bretts, but so few that I'm sure we're all missing it more often than not. There are also wines that have a distinct mustiness when first opened but that blows off after 30 minutes or so. I've been told that's called "Bottle Funk" by 'experts'. I don't for a minute think we're immune to TCA so it's got to be lack of recognition.

                                      If you do get a corked bottle soon it would be great to have. You can e-mail me at the address I use for alt.food.wine [midlife@cox.net] and I'll send you an address and I have a FedEx account for you to use too.

                                      1. re: Midlife

                                        I'll keep my nose out, and see if I can get a "classic" example for you to use as a reference. No promises though. If the Kistler and the Puligney-Montrachet had not been a tad expensive, and the shop, just over the hill, I'd have used either of those. However, we've had a few lately, and not all with $$$ price tags. OTOH, maybe my offer will now keep me from encountering one for a decade. You know, kinda' like wanting to CATCH a stoplight, so you can do something - never fails, all the lights are green, and for miles! [Grin]

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Bill,

                                          Thanks so muhc, but I think I've got it covered.

                                          I've asked a couple of wholesaler reps to save me some corked sample bottles. I had thought they need to turn them back in, but apparently they don't. I really want to get into this because I thought I had a pretty good nose except for this issue that has bothered me for a long time.

                                          1. re: Midlife

                                            Yes, it sounds as though you have it covered. If not, let me know. I think that once you get the olfactory imprint in your mind, you will not soon forget it.

                                            Hunt

                                            1. re: Midlife

                                              Midlife, could you please post about your experience after you try this? I'm in the same boat as you and would love to hear how your test goes.

                                      2. re: Midlife

                                        Cork taint is a very distinctive smell -- almost as distinctive a smell as singed hair -- and once you smell it and *get it* you never forget it. Over time, you'll be able to pick it out in lower and lower parts per trillion. Now, I am more and more suspect of any mustiness in wine -- especially if the fruit is dull. Hunt's a sweetie pie offering to send you a bottle of corked wine, but it might be simpler to walk into a wine store, explain that you'd like to be able to identify TCA, and ask if they have a badly corked bottle around so that you can lock in the smell. It's something every wine drinker should be able to detect. You might also ask to smell a slightly corked bottle for comparison -- the same smell, just less of it. Good luck, midlife!

                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          Whenever I'm teaching wine courses and someone asks me about corked wines, I usually say "Just wait," and leave it at that. Over the course of a six- or eight-week class, I know I'm bound to pop open a corked wine and when it "arrives," I pour it for everyone without a word . . . I'm sure not one of my students has ever forgotten it either! ;^)