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

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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

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