About 5% of wine is “corked” and you may not even notice. But keep your receipt! Because if you so happen to stumble upon a “corked” bottle of wine, you are absolutely allowed to get a refund.
A wine that is “corked” means it has been tainted by a “bad” cork and the end result is a stinky wine that smells like damp, moldy cardboard.
Corks are grown from wood around the world. Portugal is the world’s largest cork supplier and produces 50% of corks that go into wine bottles. Here, it takes about 25 years for an oak tree to be ready to produce cork. Wood is carved from the oak, dried in the sun for several months and then boiled to kill any bacteria or insects that are present in the wood.
In the 1950s and 1960s, many strong fungicides and insecticides were used on these trees. When a certain fungus, bacteria or mold comes in contact with these chemicals, they produce a compound called 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA) which infects the cork. When an infected piece of cork comes in contact with the wine, it too becomes tainted with the compound.
What is Cork Taint?
When wine bottles have a “corked” taint, it can ruin the wine. First, it can mask or dull all of the delicate fruit flavors that are present in the wine. Second, it can project odors that smell like mold, must, wet cardboard, and old basements. Although the taint itself is harmless, no one wants to drink wine that smells and tastes like that! Not everyone can recognize cork taint, but some consumers are sensitive to those-off flavors and recognize it right away.
Take the Wine back
If you determine your wine is corked, take it back and don’t feel bad about it! It’s no one’s fault, per se, but by law, retailers recognize it as a valid reason for a return. In most cases you will receive a full refund or store credit to purchase a new bottle. Don’t feel bad about it, because the retailers usually return them to the producers for a refund as well.
The Future of Wine Corks
The effected trees were planted over 60 years ago. As new trees slowly replace the tainted trees, the prevalence cork taint should decrease over time. In the meantime, many producers turn to alternative methods of bottle closure including screw caps, synthetic corks, or plastic.
But if you happen upon a “corked” bottle, return it!
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