My friend gave me a special old wine for Christmas. He told me he had painstakingly carried it home from Sicily a decade ago. But when I opened it a few days later it turned out to be corked. We were forced to pour it down the sink. Should I let him know?
Yes, you should, assuming – and this is crucial – that he is familiar with the true concept of cork taint. Given the rarity of the bottle, I think it’s fair to assume your friend knows his cork taint (and doesn’t confuse it, as many people do, with broken cork fragments floating in the wine, which are merely a sign of a dry cork and are no reason to dump the wine).
Still, that’s almost beside the point. It’s how you tell him that matters. Male wine nerds belong to a bizarre species. They tend to be wonderfully generous with their most precious bottles yet are also often – how shall I say? – visited upon by mild arrogance from time to time. For wine wankers, having the last word matters, especially when they’re weighing in on one of their own precious bottles.
So, offer up your sad tale with a heaping helping of gratitude. And keep in mind that cork taint, a random and mouldy-smelling defect found in a percentage of wines sealed with corks, is never the consumer’s fault; it’s the winery’s fault for selling undrinkable garbage. Tell the guy you can’t believe how generous he was to gift you with the boozy equivalent of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then tell him you uncorked the wine with other guests who all confirmed your diagnosis. And this is important: Tell him that, despite the taint, you sensed that there was a really good wine underneath.
Beppi Crosariol will once again be participating as The Globe’s wine expert on the July 2019 Globe and Mail Seine River Cruise. For details on how to reserve your cabin on this voyage down the Seine from Paris to Normandy visit GlobeNormandyCruise.com.