Can I really make a bad wine taste better by sticking plastic wrap into my glass?

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,

Can putting plastic wrap in a wine fix a bad bottle? I’ve heard that it might make a wine taste better.

—D.N., New York

Dear D.N.,

Some people have found some success in using plastic wrap to mitigate “corky” wines. When someone describes a wine as “corky” or “corked,” it means that the wine is suffering from a musty, wet-cement-smelling chemical compound known as 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or TCA for short. It’s not harmful to drink, but it is unpleasant. TCA can be linked to corks because the compound forms from a particular interaction of phenols, and phenols are found in corks, but TCA can also originate in other places, like cardboard cases, wooden barrels or pallets.

I’m not sure who was first to try this out, but a few years ago, wine lovers started talking about treating a “corky” bottle of wine by sticking some plastic wrap in it. The thinking was that the TCA would adhere, or “cling,” to the cling wrap. My colleague Harvey Steiman did a series of experiments with this theory, and members of WineSpectator.com can see his results.

What Harvey’s results showed—and what my own experiments have echoed—is that sometimes you can get small improvements from the plastic wrap, but only to a point. Either the plastic wrap doesn’t completely remove the TCA notes, or it appears to strip out the wine’s good flavors, or in some scenarios, even imparts a plastic-wrap flavor into the wine. You really are better off just opening a different bottle of wine.

If you’re going to start experimenting with this, pay attention to your plastic wrap’s ingredients. Most plastic wraps are made from LDPE, or low-density polyethylene, but some are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Most folks seem to agree that PVC plastic wraps work better in this scenario.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Flaws TCA Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Does Pinot Noir come in both red and white versions? Are they the same grape?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how red wines get their color. (Hint: It's not …

Jun 22, 2022

If you're supposed to hold a wineglass by the stem, why are stemless glasses so popular?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains the pros and cons of stemless …

Jun 13, 2022

How much do our taste buds influence our perception of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains how taste sensitivity impacts our …

Jun 6, 2022

What's the shelf life of a box of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains why box wines aren't meant to …

May 31, 2022

Should I refill my own wineglass, or ask the host or server to?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the etiquette or wine service, for hosts and for …

May 23, 2022

What’s the best way to remove the cork from an imperial (a 6-liter bottle of wine)?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains best practices for opening—and serving—large-for…

May 16, 2022