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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I find I have a good nose for corked wines—the basement smell of mustiness comes through to me even when everyone else at the table has found a wine acceptable. It then becomes difficult to send a wine back, although when we do, and the new wine is tasted, everyone agrees it is in fact better. How do I diplomatically persuade my dining companions that we should return the wine?
—Doreen, St. John's, Newfoundland
I hate having to send a bottle back. I don't like to be confrontational, and I'm worried that my server—let alone my dinner companions—might not believe me.
It's best to deal with this situation right away, when the server gives you a taste of the wine (which is why this ritual exists in the first place). Sometimes, though, corky aromas intensify after the wine is in the glass for a while. Either way, if you get a smell or taste of the wine and recognize TCA (2,4,6-trichloraoanisole) and its "corky" aromas of wet basements and soggy newspapers, be direct and polite. You might say, "I think this bottle is off. It tastes corky to me. Would you please taste it? Should we try another bottle?" A good server or sommelier will deal with the situation without making you feel like a jerk.
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