What Does it Mean When a Wine is Corked?

If you have been fond of wines for a while now, you might have encountered or heard of some wine issues like corked wine. One of the things wine enjoyers should know about when it comes to wine is the answer to the question, what does it mean when a wine is corked?

What is Corked Wine?


One of the most frequent issues wine consumers usually run into when purchasing wine is getting flawed bottles because of issues with its cork.

A corked wine is not something vague or up for ambiguity; instead, it is a precise concept or condition of the wine. Corked wine, in the simplest terms, is a wine that the cork has tainted.

One of the possible causes of this is cork contamination with trichloroanisole (TCA) during wine bottling. TCA is a chemical substance produced when cork fungi come into contact with specific household cleaners.

The corks used in the particular bottle may have been processed, sterilized, or handled with chlorine. This can cause a reaction when it comes into contact with naturally existing fungi. Its unique odor is noticeable even in minute amounts and has ruined innumerable wine bottles over the years.

If TCA comes into touch with wine, the wine is at risk of being corked. TCA, once it has been released into the environment, is capable of contaminating everything. It can spread from a single cork and wine bottle to an entire winery or cellar.

The fact that chlorine is a leading cause of corked wine wasn’t figured out until the 1990s. Chlorine’s reaction with fungi was shown to be a significant source of cork taint.

Since most winemakers have stopped using chlorine-based cleaning agents or anything that has a mix of chlorine, this dramatically reduces the possibility of cork taint.

The avoidance of chlorine has significantly reduced the risk. However, it does not eliminate the possibility, as cork fungi could still interact with other chemicals.

How To Know if a Wine is Corked: A Helpful Guide


One of the leading causes of corked wine is bad packaging and storage. When taking care of the wine, the responsibility that falls under the consumer is storage.

While it’s essential to ensure that the production is high quality and there is no defect before and after purchase, it’s up to the buyer to keep it in the appropriate condition for wines.

One of the crucial things is that you keep the wine stored at the recommended temperature. It should not be stored in a place with either too high or too low temperatures. Here are some telltale signs that the wine could be corked.

Protruding cork

When you see the cork protruding from the bottle, it may have been forced out of the bottle due to extreme heat or cold. As a result, wine bottles are recommended to be kept away from any sources of excessive heat and, at the same time, temperature spikes.

Wine can be ruined by even brief exposure to temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s an exponentially greater risk that your wine will be permanently damaged if heated to higher temperatures.

Seepage or leak

A leak is quite apparent because of the stains visible when it gets dry. Therefore, examining the dried residue that has accumulated on the bottle’s neck is one way to determine whether or not there has been seepage.

Uneven pattern

An uneven pattern in your cork signifies that the wine could be corked. This can obviously indicate exposure to temperature way out of its recommended temperature, probably higher.

Change in taste

Sometimes, tasting a tinge of sharpness to the fruit in the wine as if it had been fried is a screaming indication of a corked wine.

Flavors are crisper than usual, and the finish lasts much less time than you might think it would. Muted or underwhelming wine is another possibility. When wine is subjected to extreme heat, it can become overcooked and lose its original flavor.

Corked Wine Safety


Although wines that have had their corks pulled out are no longer drinkable, consuming corked wine will not hurt your body.

While experts would say that the only thing you should watch out for in a wine is the alcohol, this element would eliminate any unwanted germs that could otherwise be present in our bodies and cause problems. Thus, there’s nothing too dangerous in drinking corked wine. However, it’s very disappointing.

While these types of wine are still consumable, if you are up for it, no amount of time or ventilation can remove the foul odor. As a matter of fact, the scent gets even worse as time passes.

However, corks contaminated with TCA also cause another problem that is trickier to spot. This is a point where the wine becomes subdued. Again, the level of muting might vary widely from bottle to bottle. The worst instances have no aroma, and the flavors are barely perceptible.

A slightly corked bottle of wine will dull the senses rather than completely ruin them. In spotting corked wines, this category is the trickiest to identify.

Something will be odd about the smells, notes, and tastes; however, the changes are subtle and, quite frankly, hard to spot if you are not someone well-versed in wine tasting. Only someone familiar with how the specific wine should taste can identify the difference in these instances.

Once you discover that the wine you bought is corked, it’s best to immediately return it and ask for a new bottle or a refund. Winemakers and sellers will have better expertise in examining corked wines, so they will know whether or not they sold you a corked bottle.

For instance, if you have already opened the bottle and it tasted funny, you can still go back and ask for a bottle change. It’s important to remember that you spent money on that and you deserve a good experience for it.

How Does a Corked Wine Taste?

Corked wines, especially severely corked ones, have the aroma and flavor of wet or soggy cardboard. The smell could also be described as rotten cardboard in the worst-case scenario.

Cork taint makes the fruit in a wine taste less fresh and vibrant leaving your mouth with a dull and plain sensation. The tang and spike will not be noticeable, and it shortens the wine’s overall finish.

The intensity of the smell is not the same for all bottles, as some could only be mildly corked, and others could be worse. The smell and taste are determined not only by the level of contamination in the wine but also by the individual’s sensitivity to the off-flavor.

This is often known as their “cork taste threshold.” Some people are more sensitive to the changes, while others are less sensitive.

When you first open the bottle, you might not even notice it, but other times, the aroma will just punch you in the nose for sure. The speed of detection really may depend on how sensitive your sense of smell and, especially, your sense of taste is.

FAQs About Wines and Corked Wines


What is TCA?

TCA is produced in the tree bark as specific bacteria are exposed to halophenols. Suppose the manufacturer of the corks utilizes chlorine at any point throughout the process of cleaning, bleaching, and sterilizing the corks.

In that case, there is a possibility that TCA will be produced. Of course, TCA can develop naturally and in filthy cellars or pesticides.

How to take care of the wine once it opens?

Re-cork the wine once opened. This means you must place the cork in the bottle after each glass has been poured. The opened bottle of wine should be kept out of the light and maintained at room temp.

Wines can be stored for longer times when placed in the fridge. Even red wine can benefit significantly from being held in the refrigerator.

What can I substitute as a cork for a bottle of open wine?

If you lose the wine cork with the unfinished drink, you may fashion a makeshift stopper for your bottle by combining plastic wrap, paper towels, and tape. However, this is not a final and foolproof solution.

This solution should just be temporary and merely a stopgap measure until you locate another cork or a wine stopper. This substitute should only be okay for a few hours, up to a day. Failing to find a proper cork or wine stopper as a replacement will ruin the wine.

What happens when corks are exposed to liquid?

When exposed and in contact with water, a cork can hold out because of its natural wax-like component, suberin.

This coating prevents the cork from immediately rotting or decomposing when soaked in water for prolonged periods. On the other hand, when exposed to dampness, the cork will swell, which in turn ruins floor covering.


As someone who enjoys wine, it’s always good to know the answer to the question, what does it mean when a wine is corked?

With this comes the importance of knowing what to do and how to actively prevent corking from ruining your drink. Ensuring the wine is safe and fresh is a big win for maximum enjoyment.

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