Corked Wine

If you open a bottle of wine that is “corked”, does that increase the chances that other bottles in the same case are corked as well? Also, are there degrees of corkiness, e.g. “kinda corked” or “really corked”? Thanks.

Answer From Expert Roger C. Bohmrich, MW

These are great questions about a common concern. Thankfully, due to greater care in the selection of the raw material and improved sterilizing procedures, it does appear that natural cork is less prone to this problem than in the recent past. French wineries in particular are increasingly relying on an innovative composite cork developed by Diam (you’ll see their brand on the cork). From studies (and, for what it’s worth, my own personal experience), it does appear that Diam has essentially conquered the problem. The challenge is that it is impossible to know which bottles may be “corked” until, well, the cork is pulled! Anecdotal evidence suggests that the problem, mainly due to a compound identified as 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA for short), may run in batches. On the other hand, to the extent corks from different lots may be mixed together, corkiness could occur entirely at random. Opinions differ on the subject of “degrees” of corkiness. As with odors in general, sensitivities vary considerably, and some tasters are immediately aware of – and put off – by any hint of corkiness while others are far less sensitive. Based on my own experience over the years, I would add that some affected wines may be very subtly affected – perhaps with a faint moldy note and a dull quality – while the worst cases have an awful mushroom-like smell which is obvious to nearly everyone.

About The Expert

Roger has enjoyed a lengthy career in the wine trade as an importer and retailer, and at present he is an educator, speaker and consultant. He set up and managed Millesima USA, a New York merchant affiliated with Europe’s leader in direct sales of fine wines to consumers. Previously, he served as senior executive of Frederick Wildman & Sons, traveling regularly around the world to visit wineries and taste the new vintage from barrel. Roger became one of America’s first Masters of Wine in 1993.


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