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Health Q&A: Are Wine Flaws Dangerous?

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: March 8, 2007

Q: I opened a bottle the other day that smelled a little off. I've heard about cork taint and brett causing this. What are those things? And do these flaws pose a risk to my health if I go ahead and drink the wine?

A: Pascal Chatonnet is an enologist at the University of Bordeaux and is well-known in the wine industry for his work on detecting wine-spoiling chemicals. His answer:

"Corky flavors are caused mainly by 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), a chemical that may contaminate the corks or may be present in wineries.

"Brettanomyces is a common yeast present in most fermented beverages, and especially in wine and beer. The excessive growth of this particular yeast may produce a very specific unpleasant aroma, like horse, leather, barnyard and phenols.

"In regard to the safety of drinking either corked wine or brettanomyces: Don't worry about your health! There is absolutely no risk. However, there is also no pleasure in tainted wines."

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