TCA, not the most romantic part of popping a cork. What is it and how can we better prepare ourselves
Last night, I opened up a bottle of wine, and unfortunately...it was tainted!
What does that mean? The wine is tainted? Well, have you ever opened up a bottle of your favorite wine and it didn’t taste like it normally does. You pop the cork and all of a sudden it smells a bit musty or old, like it’s been sitting in the back of your basement...under a cracked water pipe? Or maybe it wasn’t that bad...and it kind of smelled like old carrots? Or honestly, something just smelled off? You probably have a corked bottle.
When a bottle is corked or has cork taint it means that a chemical reaction occurred within the cork with fungi or mold which in turn affects the wine.
TCA is the chemical for cork taint. It stands for trichloranisole. It can only be detected after aging and opening. So it’s totally not your fault if you get a faulty bottle! Unless of course you’re storing it in 80° weather or in the sun!
So how do you prevent it?
You don’t. You just try to store your wine in proper temperature (65°) and in a dark space. TCA is not preventable necessarily, but it’s occurrence is rare enough your wine probably isn’t going to be affected and it won’t spoil early if you age it properly
How do I prevent purchasing a corked bottle at a restaurant? Hopefully your server will know when the bottle is corked when they serve you it. So don’t be offended if they take a big whiff of the bottle before pouring.
But cool fun fact! Did you know that at a restaurant when you order a bottle of wine, the taste isn’t to see if you like it? It’s to see if the wine hasn’t spoiled! Like when you drive a car off the lot from the dealership, the moment you open up a wine bottle, it’s yours...unless it’s flawed. Whether you like the taste or not, you bought it and will most likely be charged.
So here’s a few tips on tasting wine in restaurants for cork taint. 1) swirl your glass to open up the wine. If you don’t you could get a big smell of alcohol which isn’t the main flavor of the wine. 2) hang open your mouth and put your nose and upper lip at the top of the glass. Inhale deeply. If you smell old carrots or something funky, tell your server right away. 3) if the wine smelled fine, take a sip. Swish it around in your mouth and if you can, breathe in air to aerate the wine in your mouth. This expands flavor. 4) let the server know the wine is good and have them proceed to pour.
Sip and enjoy!