Q: I opened a bottle the other day that smelled a little off. I've heard about cork taint and brett causing this. What are those things? And do these flaws pose a risk to my health if I go ahead and drink the wine?
A: Pascal Chatonnet is an enologist at the University of Bordeaux and is well-known in the wine industry for his work on detecting wine-spoiling chemicals. His answer:
"Corky flavors are caused mainly by 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), a chemical that may contaminate the corks or may be present in wineries.
"Brettanomyces is a common yeast present in most fermented beverages, and especially in wine and beer. The excessive growth of this particular yeast may produce a very specific unpleasant aroma, like horse, leather, barnyard and phenols.
"In regard to the safety of drinking either corked wine or brettanomyces: Don't worry about your health! There is absolutely no risk. However, there is also no pleasure in tainted wines."
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