Long, long ago, when Bob Parker’s day job was lawyering and he could recommend first growth Bordeaux costing $20, corks were taken for granted.
Then Bob became Robert Parker Jr., wine critic demigod. Robert Mondavi figured out you sell more wine if you make labels comprehensible. Baby Boomers entered adulthood with corkscrews in hand. A new world of winemaking exploded in the New World. And the Great Cork Catastrophe commenced.
Overwhelmed by demand, Portuguese cork farmers fumbled. When cork is not properly cleaned, fungi invade and create a substance known as TCA that can spoil wine. Name of spoilage tells it all: “corked wine.”
Only a small percentage of corks are tainted, and many people’s taste receptors fail to detect “corking,” but wine writers could not pass up opportunity to shriek about a world-historical cork crisis. Wine snobs competed to detect faintest suggestions of corking. Screw top makers rejoiced.
So, how do you detect corked wine?
Corked wine smells like a dank basement, wet newspaper, or a wet dog. The wine will taste flat and dull with few fruit characteristics. Corked wine will not hurt you, but it will not catapult your spirit, either.
Scientists recently discovered a way to remove cork taint. Swirl and soak wine in a pitcher with a wad of polyethylene plastic (Saran Wrap) for about 15 minutes and then pour the wine into a new vessel, leaving plastic wrap behind. UC Davis scientists claim TCA bonds to plastic wrap, removing cork taint from wine.
On the other hand, just open another bottle and return the corked bottle. If your wine store doesn’t replace the bad bottle, put a cork in your patronage of that store. Or buy plastic wrap.
• Kris Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie 2014: Crisp, clean, refreshing, excellent acidity. Screw top, no possibility of cork taint. $12-13
• Tait Wines The Wild Ride Barossa Valley Red Blend 2012: Aussie GSM is fuller and more robustly assertive than Rhône; screw top. $18-23
• Badenhorst Family Wines The Curator Red 2011: Not complex, but astonishing value, example of why you should taste South African wines; screw top. $9-12
Last round: Wine is not the answer, but it definitely can help you forget the question.
Email Gus at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow tasting notes on Twitter @gusclemens. Website: gusclemens.com. Facebook: Gus Clemens on Wine.