How To Tell If Wine Is Corked

How To Tell If Wine Is Corked

By Lynne Colye, Master of Wine | O'Briens Wine Director

What does it mean when a wine is "corked" and how do you avoid it?
O'Briens Wine Director, Lynne Coyle, Master of Wine, explains it all.

Corked Wine Myths

A common misconception is that "corked wine" means there is cork floating in your wine when it's poured into your glass. But this is not the case, as Lynne details. When a cork crumbles in your glass it's usually due to the use of a bad quality corkscrew or, alternatively, that your cork has dried out.

If a wine is “corked” it means it has been tainted by the cork, or rather a chemical compound which can be found in natural corks. This in turn can have an impact on the wine's flavours and aromas. If you’ve ever opened a bottle of wine to be met with a musty or earthy smell, you’ve encountered a corked wine.



The Rough and The Smooth

Cork is a complicated subject for those who love wine. They are usually created from oak trees in Portugal and transformed into a cork for our wine bottles.

Today, there are two types of corks commonly used by wineries use to bottle their wines:

- Natural corks
- Technical corks

Natural corks can be spotted by their various bumps and lumps as they don’t have an even distribution of texture. Technical corks, on the other hand, are known for their even texture and protect the wine the same way a bottle cap can.

Alternatives to Corked Wines

An increasing amount of top quality wineries have begun to transition to using bottle cap bottles for their wines. This is simply due to the fact that corks are a separate product and they have the ability to spoil. The knock on effect then is that they can spoil the wine.

An extra benefit to opting to select a screw cap wine is that they are they are easily kept and stored for later.

What Can Cause A Dried Out Cork?

A dried out cork can be a result of a wine not being stored on its side. However, for the cork to dry out in this manner, the wine would have to be left this way for an extended period of time and not a few days!

Crumbling corks are most commonly connected with older wines and this can be avoided with the use of specific corkscrews that have been designed for older wines.


How To Avoid Corked Wine

When it comes to corked wine, there are certain things to keep an eye out for. The most important thing to check for is if the aromas within the wine carry a musty scent or if there is a vegetal scent on the nose of the wine. If one or both are present, this will most likely carry over to the taste of the wine too.

If that is the case with your wine, take it back to the shop and ask for the wine to be changed. Sometimes it happens that you may not enjoy that style of wine but at O'Briens, we would still offer to change the wine.


Lynne Coyle MW is O’Briens Wine Director and sources and selects our wine and Champagne range. One of only 420 Masters of Wine worldwide, she has dedicated her career to the food and drinks industry. Lynne also writes, judges at international wine competitions, is a Wine & Spirit Education Trust Certified Educator and makes her own wines in Spain.