Cork taint and Bret – Spot it

Cork taint and Bret – Spot it

Hands up who hates opening a bottle of wine only to taste something unexpected, not in a good way. Social politeness can often stop us from saying out loud ‘hmmm I’m not sure about this wine, there’s something wrong with it’ instead of making moves to get it replaced for another glass or a new bottle. But the reality is if you think it tastes a bit strange, it probably has a problem.

But what has happened when your wine tastes like a plastic Band-Aid has coated your tongue or stale, musty bitterness is sweeping the palate?

Let’s start with the first possible cause which is TCA or in our words cork taint. TCA stands for 2,4,6-trichloroanisole; a delightful compound which forms through an interaction between plant phenols (ie. the wines aromatics), chlorine and mould. Most frequently it occurs in natural corks and is transferred into the wine post bottling, not to be discovered until opening.

While an unpleasant time to discover a flaw in your drink the reason why TCA is not regulated is because its consumption is not harmful to consumers.

We also can’t blame it all on the cork. There could be other reasons for a cork tainted wine such as wooden barrels, storage conditions and the transportation of the cork and wine. But on the whole if it is a one off event, not the whole vintage has been spoiled, it is likely to be a cork problem.

Surprisingly only a nanogram of the TCA compound needs to be found in the cork to create the horrible taste.

Now let’s move onto that rancid, Band-Aid sensation well this is caused by something we refer to as Bret or Brettanomyces.   Brettanomyces is yeast which brings a gamey, smoky kind of barnyard style to the wine. Some winemakers love creating these characteristics in the wine like in the Cote-de-Rhone but there is also a point where something has gone wrong….a little too funky you might say. Although some people do enjoy a very funky style of wine!

Brett creates two phenols (or aroma styles) 4-ethylphenol and 4-ethylguaiacol. If you can taste the first phenol you might be struggling to pass it down the gullet.

4-ethylphenol is formed if wineries don’t have a good control mechanism in place to keep a watchful eye on general sanitation, residual sugar, PH and SO2, Barrel sanitisation and Filtration. A pretty unusual quality to find in Australian wines but we will say when you come across it you will know!

Let’s sum up.

If you are looking to spot these flaws in your wine to help you gain the confidence you need to return the wines to their rightful home for replacement keep an eye out for these traits:

Cork Taint Bret
·        Mouldy / Musty

·        Damp paper

·        Wet dog

·        Band-Aid / Metallic

·        Barnyard

·        Horsey/Mousey

So now you know how to spot these flaws you just need to build the confidence to say it out loud!

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