Can cork-tainted wine be "fixed" by replacing the cork?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I recently bottled 2 cases of Cabernet and one of them now tastes musty; another one was fine. If cork taint is the issue, can I recork the bottles that are still good?

—Julie, Milwaukee, Wisc.

Dear Julie,

You are correct that a tainted cork could be the cause of your musty wine. More specifically, the cause could be TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), a chemical compound commonly responsible for wines that seem muted, musty or moldy smelling. But TCA doesn’t just come from corks—it can also originate in wood barrels or even in a winemaking facility itself. And there are also myriad other reasons that a wine might taste off. The only way to confirm that TCA is the culprit is a lab test, which can be costly.

I have heard of entire batches of corks being infected with TCA, but it’s also just as likely that the rest of your bottles are fine. But if your wine has already been tainted by a TCA-infected cork, the damage is done—replacing the tainted cork with a clean one will not “untaint” the wine. (Although some folks claim that plastic wrap can reduce corkiness.)

If you can’t stand the suspense, you might consider investing in a Coravin, which will allow you to taste the wine without removing the cork. However, be sure to clean the Coravin’s needle between bottles, lest you risk spreading TCA.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny corks tca

More In Dr. Vinny

What's the difference between Port and Sherry?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains what Port and Sherry have in …

Jan 17, 2022

Why does wine taste better at a restaurant than it does at home?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why going out to eat changes the way we …

Jan 10, 2022

Dr. Vinny's Top 5 Questions of 2021

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, revisits some of the most popular …

Jan 5, 2022

Is the price listed on wine reviews the retail price?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where the price in a Wine Spectator wine review …

Jan 3, 2022

What’s your opinion of wine aerators?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how aerators work and whether or not they should …

Dec 27, 2021

Is it safe to drink a glass of wine that was left out overnight?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explain what happens when wine is over-expo…

Dec 20, 2021