Definition - What does Corked mean?
Corked is a slang term used to describe a wine that has gone bad. Technically, this means the wine has been contaminated with 246 trichloranisole, or TCA. A corked wine emits a musty, damp aroma and flavor, like a wet basement or dirty clothes. TCA contamination is not a health issue but can render a wine, and sometimes whole cellars, undrinkable.
WineFrog explains Corked
TCA contamination is the result of chlorinated cleaning products that react with a fungus found naturally on wine corks. TCA can infiltrate a few corks or even a whole wine cellar with just a few molecules. To prevent contamination, some wineries have banned all bleach and chlorine products from their cleaning regimens. Since TCA targets natural corks, a growing number of wineries are also researching non-traditional ways of sealing wine bottles. Synthetic corks and screw caps are increasing in popularity due in part to their TCA resistance.
Approximately 5 to 10 percent of wines become corked. The only way to tell if a wine is corked is by its smell and taste. A corked wine will have a musty, damp odor comparable to wet dirty socks. The smell can be quite strong, but other times it takes a few sniffs before the contamination becomes apparent. Modern scientific research also shows the tendency for TCA to mask a wine’s true aroma, manipulating how we perceive a wine’s taste. A corked wine exhibits a bitter, astringent taste, or it can be flat-tasting, with no fruity or floral flavors.
If a corked wine is discovered, wine merchants or sommeliers are happy to exchange the wine for a better bottle.