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Tasting and service

What Exactly is a Corked Wine?

The table is set, the glasses shined and all that’s left to do is to open the wine to go with the roast beef that’s been filling your house with mouth-watering aromas all day. You pop the cork and a strange smell wafts out of the bottle. And you know it’s strange because this is a wine you know by heart—one of your very favourites. Your wine is probably corked. But how does this even happen?

Published on October 14, 2020

The culprit is just that . . . cork. “Corked” wines generally smell like cork, wet cardboard, wet soil or even must; a very unique scent that is rather unpleasant. And although it is customary to smell the cork, be careful not to jump to conclusions too quickly. Some corks that smell questionable may be just fine, while odourless ones may be hiding a wine gone bad. Because of this, it’s imperative that you taste your wine before deciding if it is good or not.

And how exactly does such a defect get transmitted from cork to bottle? It’s not, contrary to what we tend to believe, a question of storage or even price, but rather a problem with the treatment undergone by the cork itself. A defective cork will contaminate the wine and give it that unpleasant odour, no matter what temperature the bottle was stored at. There are different levels of contamination, depending on the corks and the bottles. Some wines will simply be a little duller, a little flatter, while others will give off that undeniably wet cork smell. We don’t all perceive tastes and smell the same way, so it’s perfectly normal for a table of friends to all react differently to a wine’s composition. Just trust your tastes and don’t be shy to voice your opinion, even if your fellow diners don’t agree.

Although approximately 15% of bottles present some symptoms of being corked, the quality control process and cork treatments have greatly evolved, meaning this inconvenience is becoming less and less frequent.

And it’s important to note that this problem is almost always caused by corks. It is very rare that twist-cap bottles or bottles sealed with plastic closures are affected by such issues. However, such bottles might be susceptible to premature oxidation.

If you do fall on a corked bottle, simply return it to your SAQ store and we’ll be happy to exchange it for you. In the meantime, we suggest always having an “in case” bottle of red. That way if you do open a corked bottle, you already have another one ready to go!

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