How To Tell If Wine Is Corked: Full Guide (2023 Updated)

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin

A corked wine is the most common problem when buying wines since its cork taint strips off the wine’s original taste and aroma. 

Whether you’re a casual drinker or a seasoned sommelier, it is essential to identify a corked wine to avoid having an unpalatable drinking experience.

We will discuss how to tell if wine is corked and everything about this flaw so you can confidently enjoy drinking wine.

3 Ways To Tell If Your Wine Is Corked

Bottles of Wine

1. Smell It

Cork taint has a distinct musty, moldy odor, often described as smelling like soggy cardboard, a wet dog, or a damp basement.

If you detect any of this smell from your wine, it’s likely a case of a wine being corked.

2. Taste It

Cork taint also affects the taste of wine, masking the wine’s authentic flavors and causing it to taste dull, muted, and lacking in flavor.

If you don’t pick up a vibrant or fruity taste from your wine as it usually would, it could also be a sign that it is corked.

3. Try A Corked Wine 

Finally, you can try a corked wine to learn the smell and taste of a cork taint and be able to determine from that point forward.

You can also make a quick comparison of two exact wines, with one suspected as corked and the other as passable. 

If there are any noticeable differences in aroma or taste, or if one bottle is noticeably worse or lacking, you can safely conclude that it is corked.

What Causes A Wine To Be Corked?

Opening a Wine

A corked wine is commonly caused by a tainted natural cork stopper contaminated explicitly by a chemical compound called TCA (2, 4, 6 – Trichloroanisole) [1].

Furthermore, TCA is a chemical reaction when natural cork fungi come into contact with chlorine or other chemicals used during sterilization as part of the entire manufacturing process.

What Happens When A Wine Is Corked?

The TCA in the cork will likely contaminate the wine once the tainted cork is inserted into the bottle and comes into contact with the liquid.

As a result, the wine will develop an unpleasant musty, moldy odor and a dull, muted taste, ruining your wine-drinking experience and, worse, making it entirely undrinkable.

On top of that, TCA can contaminate not just a single cork and liquid itself but also a whole batch of cork and a wine cellar, especially if let loose in the environment.

How Do You Fix It?

Man Smelling Corked Wine 

Unfortunately, a corked wine cannot be fixed or restored to its original flavor and aroma, and the best course of action is to reuse it in long-cooked dishes or discard it and open a new bottle.

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”

— W.C. Fields, American Comedian, Actor, Juggler, and Writer

On the good side, restaurants will replace your corked wine with a fresh one, while some wineries or retailers may be willing to replace or refund your corked wine bottle.

Can You Still Drink It?

Corked wine is generally safe to drink [2] and will only give an unpleasant smell and dull taste due to the presence of TCA, spoiling your wine-drinking experience.

Regardless, the transparency of the cork taint varies depending on the concentration of TCA and the drinker’s sensitivity to the chemical compound.

How Common Is Corked Wine?

Bottles of Wine on a Basket

Corked wine is a common case for wine bottles that use natural cork stoppers and is generally estimated to be between 2% to 5%. 

However, it’s becoming less common as winemakers increasingly adopt alternative closures, such as synthetic corks or screw caps, to reduce the risk of TCA contamination.

Furthermore, several cork manufacturers have implemented quality control measures to reduce the risk of TCA contamination in their products.


What does corked mean in wine?

The “corked” term refers to a wine that comes into contact with a TCA-contaminated cork stopper, in contrast to the common belief that it is several tiny pieces of cork floating in the wine.

Can wine with a screw top be corked?

Ideally, screw tops can’t get corked since TCA naturally occurs in natural cork stoppers, and screw tops are made of metal or plastic.

However, that is not to say that screw tops have immunity to TCA. They’re only less susceptible and can still be contaminated, particularly when stored alongside corked wines.

Is corked wine ruined?

Corked wine can be considered ruined or flawed, at least for wine enthusiasts, since the TCA contamination robs away the wine’s original taste and aroma, making it unenjoyable to drink. 

In Summary

Corked wine is a term used to describe a wine contaminated by a chemical compound called TCA (2, 4, 6 – Trichloroanisole) present in the tainted cork.

Furthermore, TCA significantly detracts from the quality of wine regarding taste and aroma, making it unappealing to drink.

Finally, while corked wine can be safely ingested, it will give a flat, muted taste, and no viable solutions can fix the cork taint in the wine.



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here or feel free to give Lydia a tip.

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