Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny



Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

One of our customers refused a bottle of Prosecco because of cork taint. Could you please explain cork taint in sparkling wine?

—Gulfidan O., Izmir, Turkey

Dear Gulfidan,

Cork taint is the most common wine flaw. You may also hear people refer to these tainted wines as “corky” or “corked.” They are usually recognized by their moldy, musty aromas of wet cardboard, damp basement or mixing cement, all of which are caused by the presence of the chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or TCA. TCA is caused by the interaction of mold, chlorine and phenols, which are organic compounds found in plants. Since natural corks are made from the bark of cork oak trees, TCA can originate there. But TCA can also originate in other places, like cardboard cases, wooden barrels or pallets. TCA isn’t harmful, just unpleasant, blocking the olfactory channels that would otherwise allow you to enjoy a wine’s fresh fruit notes.

That musty aroma that indicates the presence of TCA should come across similarly whether the wine in question is red, white, sparkling or sweet.

Hopefully you gave your customer a replacement bottle. If you’re not familiar with what TCA smells like, you should have taken a whiff. Once you’ve smelled it, it’s much easier to identify it.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers


WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.