Mark from Wellington writes to ask one of the hairiest wine questions: what exactly does a corked wine smell like?
And how can he confirm if a wine is damaged enough to reject or take back?
It’s a good question. If a wine is corked it should always be rejected.
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 so the chance of a corked bottle of Australasian wine is relatively slim, but it is possible and I routinely encounter bad wines lurking beneath corks.
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 and 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 take it back to where you bought it and ask for a replacement if you’re drinking at home.
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.
Let me know how you go.