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

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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

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