Swirl, sniff, sip. Hmmm, something's off. Let's try again. Swirl, sniff, sip. Those were the steps I engaged in that made me realize my beautiful Italian wine was corked.
When a wine is corked it has distinct smells of dirty sneakers and wet cardboard. A corked wine is not from poor winemaking, dirty vineyards or bad storage. Getting a corked bottle, known as cork taint, is from the presence of a chemical compound TCA, trichloroanisole. TCA can affect a $7 or $200 wine, and when it does, it's unsavory. It's hard for many, even some in the industry, to know if a wine is corked. When it happens, many unknowingly often say, "That's a horrible wine," and never want to have it again.
The chemical details of how TCA happens may make you yawn. But basically components in cork, from cork trees, when in contact with certain chlorides react to produce TCA. We don't know it's happened until we taste, and just because one bottle is corked doesn't mean all are. The corked wine I had was from a case that didn't contain other corked bottles.
During holidays, our home is a gathering place where family and friends talk, laugh and enjoy food and wine. It's always fun sharing our favorites, and never when we share these do we want to open a corked bottle. But it happens. Can we prevent it? No. So for our holidays, I always ensure we have multiple bottles of a specific wine. You may want to too, to combat any unwelcome wine visitor during a dinner party or special occasion.