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Food & Wine I opened a bottle of 2008 wine and it was corked. Was it corked earlier or could it have become corked in recent years?

The question

I opened a bottle of 2008 wine and it was corked. Was it corked earlier or could it have become corked in recent years?

The answer

Once corked, always corked – that’s the rule. The mouldy odour (and flavour) associated with corked wine is the product of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or TCA, a compound that forms inside fungus-infected cork bark long before the bottle closures are shipped to unsuspecting wineries. As soon as a bottle is plugged with a seemingly clean, odourless TCA-infected cork, the tainting process has begun. That means your 2008 wine would have been defective when you purchased it, presumably years ago. A wine does not simply “become corked” at some later point in its evolution in bottle.

To be fair, though, your wine might have tasted a little less foul had you opened it years earlier. Given that TCA taint comes from the cork, a wine’s contamination tends to increase over time as the liquid interacts with the polluted bark. Unlike certain other wine defects, such as hydrogen sulfide, TCA does not “blow off” with exposure to air or otherwise diminish over time.

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The only good news is that TCA is not harmful in concentrations typically found in wine, and if you still have your receipt from the time of purchase, you should be able to return the bottle to your retailer for a refund.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

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