In my previous article, I reviewed a flight of wines I received from Okanagan’s Mt. Boucherie winery. One of the bottles in question was a red wine made from the Blaufränkisch grape. I have tasted wine from this grape before, so when I opened the bottle the wine really had a subdued nose and flavours. I checked the cork and saw a black squishy part on the cork, and I thought, this bottle may be corked.
What is a Corked Wine?
A corked wine is one that has been affected by some sort of wine fault, giving the wines either depressed flavours and aromas, and/or undesirable flavours and aromas. Cork taint can happen to any winery, and come in varying degrees, from quite mild, which is very hard for most people to detect, to really bad. In the really bad category, the wine will have aromas of wet cardboard, wet dog, or damp basement. The taint typically comes from a chemical compound known as TCA. TCA can be present in wood, wine, cork and more. Being very clean in all stages of wine production and bottling can help keep down cork taint, but it may still occur. On average about 1 bottle in 12 bottles in cork will be corked. Screw cap manufacturers point out that cork taint is not possible with their closures, which is true, but your bottle still could get contaminated somewhere along the way by some airborne fungi.
Back to my bottle of Blaufränkisch. As mentioned, the flavours and aromas were not quite as bright as I expected, but I did not get any of that wet cardboard, wet dog, etc. It is a difficult call to determine if a wine like this is bad, or really if that is how it is. Unfortunately when you open a bottle that has mild cork taint, probably most people would just accept it and think that they really did not enjoy that wine and never buy it again. When you have a wine that really isn’t very aromatic or flavourful, if you are in a restaurant, try to ask someone in the restaurant to try the wine. They may have more experience, or just ask for a new bottle and say that you think that there is something wrong with the bottle. It does take a bit of courage to do this, especially if you are not a wine geek, but the restaurant should try to accommodate you.
If you are at home, I’d suggest putting the cork back in the bottle and taking it back to the wine shop and tell them that you think the bottle is corked and ask for a replacement bottle.
If you need more confirmation before you try to return the bottle, you can always check the back label on the bottle to see if there are tasting notes. If your wine experience is quite different from the bottle notes, return it. If there is no bottle note on the back label, try going to the winery’s website, and check the tasting notes for that wine.
To try to help you out with identifying mild cork taint, I have included below my tasting notes for the corked bottle and the replacement good bottle. I hope it helps you.
Mt. Boucherie Summit Reserve Blaufränkisch 2010 (Corked bottle)
Deep ruby in colour with translucent rim. Subdued nose, with dusty, chocolate and black cherry aromas. Subdued flavour with strong cassis, plum and nutmeg/cinnamon spice on the palate. Supple, silky mouth feel. Also noted some perfume, blueberries, and red cherries. Acidity there, but not too strong. Some pepperiness on the finish.
Mt. Boucherie Summit Reserve Blaufränkisch 2010 (Good bottle)
A deep garnet in colour, fairly opaque but does have a translucent rim. It has an interesting nose, showing some development in the bottle. I picked up initially ripe cassis, plums, jammy raspberries, and a hint of cloves and oak. With a few hours of decanting the nose changed more to smoky raspberries and tea leaves, and less of the cassis and plums. The wine is dry on the palate, medium plus bodied, but quite full flavoured, round, and supple mouth feel. Cassis and ripe raspberries were most prominent followed by ripe red cherries and plum flavours. There were also hints of violets/perfume and oak. This wine has a nice light acidic prickle on the tongue, and smooth tannins. With decanting I picked up some coffee flavour and I noted that the acidity had gone down a bit. This wine has a medium plus length. I enjoyed the acidity on the finish, together with the soft tannins and the dark ripe fruit flavours. There is also some spiciness on the back of your tongue and throat. This is quite a complex wine evolving over time with some decanting. I would love to enjoy this wine with a plate of cheese, preferably Oka or Muenster. I am not sure of the aging potential of this wine, but I think leaving it for a year in your cellar would not hurt it and maybe bring out more of it’s developing flavours.