Wine Words Demystified: Corked

You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Corked

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

 A term used to describe a wine that smells like a wet dog in a basement or, sometimes, like wet cardboard.  Wines become corked or corky when certain bacteria in the cork cells interact with minute amount of chemical residues that many remain in corks or wine bottles after they are cleaned.  A corked wine has a defective aroma and flavor, although it will not harm the drinker.  Corked wine cannot be predicted.  Any wine regardless of its quality or price can be corky.

I had recently had my first corked wine.  Scratch that…I had my first two corked wines.  There were both from the same producer,  and both Petite Sirah, one from the 2005 vintage and one from the 2006 vintage.  While it was pretty disappointing, I actually felt fortunate to not have had a corked wine up to that point.  Estimates on what percentage of wines vary, but mostly I’ve seen between 1%-7%.  Given how much wine we drink, and this was our first, I’m surprised it hadn’t happened sooner.

Image courtesy of My Grape

It is also referred to as cork taint, and the chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA).

Of course corked wines can be avoided altogether if a screwcap, or other non-cork closure had been used.  Have you have any corked wines?  How often has it happened to you?  Did it influence your opinion of screwcap vs. corks?


  1. I have had probably a dozen corked wines or so over the years, but that’s out of at least a thousand bottles or so. I do not mind the screw cap at all, and since it is cheaper than a good cork, I say go for it!

    1. Thanks for the comment! Nice to hear from another wino!

  2. Ron Hunt says:

    I wonder if that really was your first (or first two) corked wines. Most of the time the TCA is so subdued that most people do not know that a wine is corked until it is pointed out to them the first time. It is nearly impossible to describe the taste of a corked wine. I have heard that most everyone has had a corked wine and not realize it. BTW, a crystalyzed cork is not an indication of a corked wine. (See Photo)

    1. Hi Ron. Thanks for the comment and dropping so knowledge on me! It’s my understanding yes that corked wines come in varying degree, and that we as individuals are sensitive to it in varying degrees as well. So I bet you’re right I’ve had a corked wine before and didn’t realized it. Thank for the info re: crystalized cork not being indicative of a cored wine as well! Cheers!

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