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Conscious of Cork: How to Know When Wine Has Been Corked?


Bottle of wine on picnic table
Don't be afraid of returning a bottle of wine when you suspect it is corked.

However do we really know what exactly a corked wine smell like?

And how can you confirm if a wine is damaged enough to reject or take back?

Experts say, if a wine is corked it should always be rejected.

How to Know When Wine Has Been Corked?

Thankfully there is less of it about now than there was a decade ago, before screwcaps were reintroduced in Australia and New Zealand.

Today screwcaps seal over 90 per cent of wines in New Zealand and over 60 per cent in Australia. Therefore the chance of a corked bottle of Australasian wine is relatively slim, but it is possible. 

Cork taint gives itself away by smelling of damp cardboard, rotting wood and mouse-dropping-type aromas. Not pretty.

The trouble with corked wine is that sometimes it’s easy to smell and taste as soon as you open the bottle. Other times it’s hard to be sure because it is only vaguely corked – with only a little bit of dustiness rather than full-blown hideous aromas and flavours.

This leads most drinkers to blame the particular wine and vote with their feet by avoiding that wine next time they’re out shopping. At high levels, cork taint smells so awful that it’s obvious something is not right with the wine. More often than not, however, cork taint is only slightly noticeable.

If a wine smells or tastes “off” in any way, ask for another bottle if you’re dining out. Or, if you are drinking at home, take it back to where you bought it and ask for a replacement.

Put the cork back into the neck of the bottle rather than drinking it. Be confident. If it tastes wrong to you, there probably is something wrong.


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