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,
Is it possible to “fix” cork-tainted wine with plastic wrap? How does that work?
—Bruce, Detroit, Mich.
To catch everyone up, wines with cork taint (sometimes referred to as “corked” or “corky”) can exhibit a musty character often described as smelling like moldy newspapers, damp cardboard or wet cement. It’s caused by a chemical compound called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or TCA, that mutes wine’s flavors and aromas; it isn’t harmful to drink, but it can be unpleasant. The chemical compound can arise from corks, but it can also originate in other places, like barrels, pallets, cardboard boxes or even a winery building itself.
And for those not familiar with the plastic-wrap phenomenon, about a decade ago, some scientists figured out that plastic wrap made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) will attract molecules of TCA, removing some of them from a cork-tainted wine. Be advised, however, that most plastic wraps are made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), as opposed to PVC, and LDPE doesn’t achieve the same results.
I’ve done some experiments myself, and I must warn you that this process can be messy. Besides that, while PVC does seem to remove some of the TCA, I also feel that the wine lost some of its positive character as well. I also started to detect plastic notes in the PVC-treated wine.
While it’s a fascinating experiment, there’s no way to know whether or not a wine is off until you open it, and even if it is flawed, those negative characteristics will sometimes dissipate on their own as the wine has a chance to “breathe,” or open up. My verdict: Treating tainted wine with PVC isn’t worth the effort.