Is a lack of wine the biggest drama for an avid wine lover? I don’t think so! Sure, it is not a pleasant feeling when you cannot indulge in your favourite pastime, but you will survive without a glass of wine now and then. Just like we enjoy summer even more after a long winter, the same could be said about periodic abstinence to enhance the enjoyment of our favourite liquor.
So, maybe we can get frustrated if we come across a low quality wine? That also doesn’t seem to be the case! I can see at least a couple of benefits of an average wine. First of all, you can always flush it down the sink. Problem solved. Or you can liberally pour it into a pot to enhance the flavour of your dish. Finally, you can treat your ex to that plonk at the party – if she/he pops in uninvited.
So what gives wine lovers sleepless nights? It is 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole…it is truly a nasty thing – not only to pronounce, so let’s call it TCA or simply a cork taint. Cork is harvested from Quercus suber tree, commonly known as the cork oak. TCA is a chemical compound which comes to life when a tree’s phenols, chlorine and mould interact with each other.
It is not only cork that can become contaminated. Barrels, wood beams, wooden pallets also present danger of TCA contamination. Virtually all Australian wine comes with a screw cap nowadays, however there is still a remote chance of a bad batch if the wine gets into contact with contaminated equipment.
Wine which falls victim to TCA loses its all qualities. Musty becomes the overpowering aroma and unless you are a basketball player used to changing rooms, you will not appreciate this surprise.
The bad news is that once we open “corked” wine nothing can be done. Aerating, decanting and other rituals cannot bring it back to life.
So, why is this such a nightmare? Murphy’s Law is to blame – it usually occurs whenever the occasion is grand or when the particular bottle presents big value for us. Imagine someone sent you a bottle of gorgeous red from Tuscany. You kept it in your cellar for 10 years to make sure the magic inside the bottle has done its wonders and then finally you decide the time has come…you invite your favourite girlfriend/boyfriend, carefully pull the cork and then unthinkable happens – it is CORKED.
Luckily this phenomenon is in decline – in the late 2000s TCA was present in around 9% of wines. These days it is estimated that about 3-4% of the world’s wine production is affected by cork taint, so if you are a regular connoisseur of vino, one day you still might be up for a surprise.