Dear Wine Master,
I served what I thought was a fine bottle of Merlot at a dinner party. Everyone sipped politely, although none were effusive in their praise. When one of our guests declared, ”This bottle is corked!” my immediate reaction was to check that cork from the stopper hadn’t fallen into the wine and ended up in his glass. What did he mean?
How awkward for you! Sometimes these unexpected moments can feel like a crisis, but forewarned is forearmed, so let me point you in the right direction:
Wine, even in the bottle, is susceptible to ill health. There are many organisms which can attack wine giving it a taint and making it less than pleasant to drink. Among these is a compound released by moulds that can infest the bark from which corks are made. If an infected cork is used in a wine then the smell and taste of that wine will remind you of wet musty cardboard . . . pretty nasty, very un-subtle, and quite easy to recognise.
The occurrence of ”corked” wine is on the increase. I believe that latest statistics suggest that something like one in ten bottles of wine suffers from this taint! If it happens to you, then just re-cork the bottle and return it to your merchant for an exchange or refund.
You will find much useful information on this subject at Tasting-Wine.com and Tainted-Wine.com.
A word of caution: beware the guest who shouts ”corked” at you just because there are cork particles floating in the wine. This is nothing that a teaspoon can’t resolve!