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Saturday
Aug172013

Back-up Plans

I got home last night after a long day, put my phone and wallet down, made myself a French 75 cocktail, quickly assembled the IKEA mobile kitchen counter that was waiting on my doorstep, paid the delivery guy for the food that he delivered while I was doing so, then finally sat down to dinner with a bottle of Bordeaux I had been waiting all day to try. I was so excited to relax, watch the next episode of Orange is the New Black on Netflix, and swirl that wine in my glass while nosing the aroma. As I popped the cork, however, I could already smell what was emanating from within the bottle: a big, fat whiff of moldy, musty, wet dog, old closet coming right at my nostrils from the neck of the glass. TCA. Cork taint.

Son of a bitch!

Luckily, I had a second bottle in my bag. That one tasted just fine. I came back in to work today and swapped the old bottle with a new one. That's what you should do, by the way, if you find yourself with a bad bottle of wine. Put the cork back in, take it back to where you got it, and ask for a replacement. Don't ask for a different bottle because then you look like you just didn't like it and want your money back. Get the same bottle and try again. TCA has nothing to do with any one producer, or a set of bad corks. It's totally sporadic and it can happen to the most expensive of bottles.

I still find that TCA or "corked" wine puzzles many shoppers. Some people think they can hold a bottle up to the light and see if there's cork in the bottle, but that's not what "corked" means. Some people mistake the earthy, herbaceous flavor of old wine or a skunky cabernet franc as TCA, but it can sometimes just be the flavor of the wine. Some people dump the wine down the drain and return an empty bottle, but how will we know it's corked if the wine isn't there to analyze? Some people think a crumbly cork means the wine itself is bad, but that doesn't have anything to do with it either. TCA is a compound that comes from contaminated equipment and finds its way into the cork.  As a buyer, there's nothing you can do to prevent it and there's nothing you can do once it's happened.

Can you imagine buying a bottle of wine, saving it for ten years, waiting to drink it for that entire decade, only to open it and find that it's corked? That's why people buy wine by the case! Because you need a back up plan. It totally sucks, but that's part of the risk when you buy a bottle of wine (or whisky too, but it's much, much rarer). If you've ever thought about laying down a bottle for an anniversary, birthday, or the future date of your child turning twenty-one, you might want to buy two. Or three. Or six.

TCA happens. Usually when you really don't want it to.

-David Driscoll