The many faces of Cork Taint

Photo by VinologueIn wine circles, some of the most annoying people I’ve run in to are the, “corkers” who are those people that always feel that they must one-up everyone else in the room by declaring boldly, “Corked!” when tasting a wine. In general, they’re correct and the seal of the wine has indeed failed in some way. But, there are leagues of difference in how failed a wine can be (especially when compared to our 404 page which is only fail).

I’ve seen this when in Istria, Croatia when a local bottle was opened at a wine bar which everyone took one whiff of and as a whole we collectively tossed out our glasses as the wine was nothing short of toxic vinegar. Then the other night at home, I opened up a bottle from a great producer in Empordà, Catalonia and could visibly see that the cork was flawed. Despite this and while not optimal, the wine was still drinkable and fine with a meal. Because really, with a cork closure, it’s only a matter of time before it fails and your job as the drinker is to try and suck it down before that happens.

For those reading this and wondering, “I always hear this, but what the fuck is a corked wine like?!!” it’s generally defined as having an odor of wet cardboard and all the fruit in the body has dropped out. Smell a lot of sulfur and think it’s corked? Possibly, but not necessarily. It helps a great deal to understand this if someone guides you through the first one, or if you compare a good bottle with one that has TCA (the technical word for “corked” or “cork taint”). But again, this is all over the map and I want to put forth something of a scale to rate the level of corkedness:

  1. Minor defects that would be hard for the general drinker to notice and is otherwise good, but should be consumed quickly, which generally isn’t a problem with wine, right?
  2. More defects show up that lead to a less than desirable finish and other notes that seem off, especially when compared to another bottle without an defects, although after the first glass, it seems just dandy…
  3. Easy to detect problems and if in a restaurant, it should be sent back as it could also be cooked due to being stored above the stove hood or some other idiotic place. If it’s a bottle at home, it can be had with a meal because hey, tossing out wine is hard to do.
  4. It’s a stinker. No matter how hard you try, it would be rough to drink and the fruit and depth of the wine is so absent, it’s not doing the cellar any service to choke it down and think of it as representative of their wines. Toss it or attempt to make balsamic vinegar if you’re crafty.
  5. Horrid. You wouldn’t wash your dog’s butt with it if you had a dog and were inclined to wash its butt and using wine nonetheless. Toss it, don’t pass go, and probably don’t shop wherever you bought it because something ain’t right ’bout that place.

Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014 95
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
95 3 Stars

Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015 94
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
94 3 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016 93
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
93 2 Stars

AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012 93
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
93 2 Stars

Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015 93
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
93 2 Stars

Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015 93
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
93 2 Stars

Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014 93
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
93+ 3 Stars

Domaine Fontanel - Prieuré 2014 92
Dense ruby with brick flecks. Crisp red fruits, lifted by a waft of volatility making for a light nose with a spicy licorice and leather component. Crisp and lively with red cherry fruit in the mouth and a nudge over medium acidity. Nice, lingering finish.
50% Syrah 25% Grenache 25% Mourvèdre · 14.5%
92 2 Stars

Cave Abbé Rous - Cornet & Cie Blanc 2016 92
Peach, orange peel & blossom, honey, dried apricot, and a hint of green apple. Very nicely balance in the mouth, green apple notes more prevalent, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish. Fresh, lively, very pleasing wine to drink.
60% Grenache Gris 25% Grenache Blanc 5% Marsanne 5% Roussanne 5% Vermentino · 14.5%
92 2 Stars

Clos Henri - Petit Clos Pinot Noir 2016 92
Earthy, red cherries, young, crisp cranberry, light herbal notes, leafy, minor chalk. Medium tannins and medium plus acidity as well as length. Light sweetness on the palate but with a very pleasant, lingering structure and lightness to it.
100% Pinot Noir · 13.5% · 16.50EUR
92 2 Stars