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Myth or Mystery: Can you have a corked wine with a screw cap?

Myth or Mystery: Can you have a corked wine with a screw cap?

In short, yes you can. We appreciate that this seems like somewhat of an oxymoron, as there is no cork involved in the process of making a wine with a screw cap. However, whilst corks are the biggest culprits of causing cork taint, a wine does not become corked simply from a faulty cork. 

Depending on who you speak to, the number of bottles affected by cork can vary widely - from 1% off all wine, to even over 9% of wines. Needless to say, it is one of the wine industry’s biggest enemies and every wine drinker is likely to come across a corked bottle of two in their lifetime. In case you are not familiar with this pesky fault (lucky you), it is good to be aware of how best to smell and taste for it. It can be present in varying degrees of intensity but always presents itself with smells of mustiness, dampness and wet cardboard. These smells cover the fresh primary aromas of the wine, such as fruits, herbs and floral notes. If you crack open a bottle of wine and it just smells a bit sad and muted and just generally a bit flat, chances are, you’ve encountered a corked bottle. It does not mean there are bits of cork floating in the wine!

So, if corked wine doesn’t solely come from corks, where does it come from? Firstly, the official way to describe the fault is TCA, which is an acronym for a far more complicated chemical compound that we are not going to bore you with. This chemical compound comes to life through the unfortunate meeting of plant phenols, chlorine and mould. This has been a big issue in the past, as many wineries used chlorine to clean much of the equipment in their cellars. Even more frustrating in the understanding of this fault is that the compound is extremely good at hiding and likes to hang out in organic porous substances which are widely used in wineries - such as wood, cardboard and of course, cork - and thus makes it almost impossible to find. 

Lucky for us wine drinkers, there have been huge advances in understanding why wines are corked. As such, cellar maintenance and cleanliness has come on leaps and bounds and the quality of corks is better than ever, with some companies even individually testing their corks for traces of TCA, as well as the now widespread use of technical corks which eradicate cork taint.

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