How to Tell If Your Wine Is Corked

You may have seen these people at your favorite restaurants. You may have judged them, rolled your eyes, called them snobs when you looked over their shoulders and watched as they called over the waiter or sommelier and returned the perfectly good bottle of wine that they ordered. But don’t be so quick to call them out. They may know something that you don’t. We are here to share with you some tips on how to tell if your bottle of wine is ‘corked’, which is a perfectly acceptable and definite reason to send back wine after it had been opened.

Cork taint refers to a cork that has been polluted with the TCA molecule, which in turns delivers a moldy mustiness to the wine. This does not mean that the wine is merely not to your liking (no grounds for return), but it has actually turned bad because of a chemical reaction and in turn makes it return-worthy.

Here are some tips to help you catch cork taint:

Smell the wine.


This does not say smell the cork, smelling the cork is not a guaranteed way to determine anything (it’s simply a way waiters/bartenders can attempt to tell quickly without sticking their noses in your actual wine glass). Pour wine into your glass and stick your nose in for a big whiff. If any of the following aromas come to mind: wet newspaper, your grandmother’s basement, wet dog, wet cardboard or a damp wool coat, then there is a good chance that your wine is corked. Note: don’t pay attention to any bits of cork floating in the wine –this does not mean the wine is bad, but suggests someone needs to practice using their wine key!

Taste the wine.


If the wine tastes like any of the above mentioned mold or musty aromas, you will most likely know right away. Trust your instincts. Your initial reaction is almost always right. And the more you taste wines, the better you’ll get at distinguishing a bad bottle (yes, this is our way of giving you permission to drink a LOT of wine….practice makes perfect).

Get a second opinion.

If you are at a restaurant, ask the waiter or sommelier to taste the bottle in question. (This does not make you pretentious, we promise!) They should have no problem bringing you a new bottle, which will make only a world of difference in your quaffing enjoyment. If you are at home and you bought the wine-in-question near by, return it to the retail store for a new bottle. If that is not convenient, TCA is killed in heat, so waste not want not, your ‘corked’ wine has just now become your ‘cooking’ wine.

How many times do you think you have finished a bottle of wine that was corked and just thought you didn’t like it? You may have to go back and give those grapes a second chance. Let us know in the comments below if you have other tips to identify cork taint or if you’d like to share any stories about corked wine…


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