🍾 Your Wine Is Not Corked!
But there are a bunch of things that may be wrong with it.
"Hi guys, I think this wine is corked." Cool. It happens. It sucks, but what can you do? You can't win them all. The issue of corked wine is actually extremely rare and there are a few other common faults which you might be picking up on and confusing with cork taint. Don't worry though - I'm going to explain them and more importantly, DRNKS still refunds you for these faults. In fact, DRNKS basically refunds for any complaint about the juice - thankfully we don't get that many!
There's also a difference between faults and taints. Faults lie in the wine inside the bottle, whereas taints come from outside factors (one could be the cork, yep). Lastly, as per usual, I'll keep it light and breezy. There are a million more faults and taints, we're just looking at the ones we see regularly. If you want to dig deeper to understand the science, this resource is excellent, and really in depth.
"It tastes like vinegar."
This is probably the most common fault, and also a tricky one, because sometimes volatile acidity (or VA as we call it) is just a character found in a few of our wines. Having said that, you'll normally see it mentioned in the tasting note if it's meant to be there... What makes wine smell like vinegar is rapid oxidation of the juice - too much oxygen. Although sometimes the cork can contribute to this by not sealing the wine correctly (that’s not “corked” though). If it's in check and not dominating the aroma and you can still smell and taste other characters - it's meant to be there. However, if it's moving into the ethyl acetate region and smells like nail polish remover, it’s 100% not meant to be there. As a footnote to this, we carry quite a few wines (especially from the Jura) that are oxidised on purpose, mainly in tank or barrel prior to bottling. The big difference you'll see here is more of a nutty / sherry-like character, but most importantly it’ll be integrated into the rest of the wine. A component - not a dominating feature.
"It stinks a bit."
Does your wine smell like eggs? Rotten eggs even? Fart lol? Well - that's nothing to do with the cork, that wine is REDUCTIVE. This is basically the opposite of what we’ve described above. This is winemaking that aims to have as little influence from oxygen as possible. It's derived from increased sulphur usage in the vineyard and in the winery. When it doesn't work out, the aroma out of the bottle when cracked open can be pretty bad. Thankfully, after a quick decant (a plastic jug is fine, don’t sweat about finding anything too fancy) or fairly vigorous swirling in the glass, those farty aromas will disappear. Yay.
"It tastes funny after I drink it.?
Oooo this is a tricky one. This could be mousiness. I feel we're going to need to do a whole article just on mousiness - it's a nightmare. Broadly speaking, it’s caused by high acid, high solids (lees etc.) and not much sulphur or oxygen. You can sometimes see it as smelling like caged mice, or that time when I was about eight years old and a mouse got trapped in the electric oven in our kitchen. When we turned it on... it was an aroma you could taste in your mouth it was so strong - I see that character in mousy wine. Gross. The things that makes this fault so tricky are:
- not everyone can sense it… Including winemakers lol!
- It appears most commonly about 3-4 seconds after you've tasted the wine, so if you're eating / trying other wines, it's really easy to miss.
Tricky little thing! How cute is this PDF? It has a lot of info and long words about what causes it.
"This wine is corked."
Cool - the real deal. Cork taint varies. It can be super subtle and will edge off just a tiny bit of flavour or aroma - you'd need to be very familiar with the wine or wine style to pick this up... Or it can be full-blown gross-this-cork-is-shit vibes. What does it smell like? Easy - mould, must, wet dog, wet cardboard... Plus, the wine will have little to no flavour, and any flavour it does have won't be very nice. Without getting too sciencey, basically there is a compound (2,4,6-trichloroanisole - there will be a test) that grows like a mould (there's a bit more to it than that) on the cork. Yuck. It happens roughly once in every 25 bottles of wine, and will only ever affect that particular bottle. The other faults listed above can take out their aggression on entire releases from wineries. Yikes.
"Will I die?"
Yes, one day. Fortunately it won't be because of any of these faults.
"What do I do?"
If this happens to you and you consider the wine undrinkable for any of the above reasons (or a reason we haven't covered) simply stop drinking, pour any wine you can back into the bottle, take a photo of the full (opened) bottle of wine, and send us a descriptive email. We'll look after you, like we always do. YAY! YOUR WINE IS NOT CORKED THERE IS JUST SOME OTHER GROSS THING WRONG WITH IT.