Cork taint in whites vs reds

Is cork taint more noticeable in whites vs reds? I opened two bottles of white Burgundy tonight that were corked (2010 Pousse d’Or Puligy-Montrachet Le Cailleret and 2018 PYCM Le Banc). I was bummed, but it got me thinking…

I realized that almost all of the bottles that I open at home that show cork taint are whites. I probably drink 2/3 reds, 1/3 whites, and yet, I find far more cork taint in whites. I can’t remember the last time I opened a corked red. But, off the top of my head, I can think of 4 corked whites just in the past few months.

Is this just me? Does TCA somehow stand out to me more in a white wine aroma/flavor profile than red? Does anyone else experience this? What’s going on?

BONUS QUESTION: I’ve had far more corked White Burgundy than any other type of wine. Of the 4 corked wines I’ve had recently, three were white Burgundies (the two mentioned above plus a Chablis). And I drink whites from all over the world; the Burgundies just seem to be corked WAY more often than others. Again, is this just me? Has anyone else noticed it? Is this my specific palate, or just (bad) luck? Seems weird that this would be the case, but I taste what I taste…


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I’ve always had a far higher percentage of corked reds than whites myself. And maybe only one corked sparkling wine ever.

But I drink a lot of Italian wines, 95% of them are red, and I’m convinced Italian wines have several times the rate of TCA compared to anywhere else (France probably second). So that might be the reason.

Checking out in CT the wines I’ve labeled “defective”. It follows quite strictly the distribution of the wines I’ve tasted (apart from Australia and New Zealand, because most of the wines I’ve tasted from those countries are closed with a screwcap).

So no, I wouldn’t say Italy or France have more incidences of corked wines. With a quick glance I really couldn’t find any trend where one region would be over-presented in relation to their weight.

Nor can I say whether TCA would be more noticeable in either whites or reds - I think it is quite obvious in both colors. However, I think carbonation in sparkling wines makes TCA feel much more in-your-face. I don’t encounter corked sparkling wines that often, but when I do, it always feels like a big smack on your face when you sniff the bottle/glass.

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Checking out in CT the wines I’ve labeled “defective”. It follows quite strictly the distribution of the wines I’ve tasted (apart from Australia and New Zealand, > because most of the wines I’ve tasted from those countries are closed with a screwcap).

That was my first reaction to the OP - what’s the distribution of closure type?

Conversely I’ve always wondered if popular impressions of burgundy (red or white) vs new world are partly down to higher proportions of corked bottles. Seems to me Chablis should have been in the vanguard of the march to screw cap.

Not quite sure I understand the question. The corked wines I referred to in the original post have all had cork closures. I certainly agree regarding Chablis, I would love to see the closure of choice in the region switch to screw cap, or at least DIAM. At least some producers are using DIAM these days. The fact that Australia and NZ have been able to shift away from natural cork shows that other regions can do it too!

Interesting to see that Otto’s rate of corked wines follows the distribution of what he drinks. That is decidedly NOT the case for me- again, I experience many more corked whites than red despite drinking more reds than whites. I suspect it has to do with my palate. I must be more sensitive to TCA in a white wine flavor profile. It’s the only explanation I can one up with. Weird…

A number of studies apparently show that the threshold for perceiving TCA is lower in white wines than red, so it makes sense that you would sense more corked whites.

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Interesting - I would think that many would not pick out corked whites as easily because most whites are served chilled. As they warm up, it would be easier to pick out the TCA, all things considered.

This has happened to me - a champagne that seemed okay but when it warmed up, the TCA was quite evident.

I would think this would happen to red wines as well - if they are more chilled, they are probably harder to detect, all things considered.


Are the composite corks used for sparkling wines any less likely to have TCA, since they’re processed more?

I drink so many more reds than whites, that I can’t opine on relative TCA rates. But I’m not sure that I’ve ever encountered a corked German riesling, and I do drink a fair number of them.

Overall TCA rates with natural are so much lower than they were 10 or 20 years ago, thank heaven!

On the contrary, from what I’ve understood, composite corks are usually more likely to have TCA, because they are going to have multiple parts of (usually lower-grade) cork in contact with the wine.

However, most high-quality sparkling wine producers have corks that have a disk of very high-quality cork glued to the bottom to keep the wine from coming in contact with the composite cork. It’s not really possible to have a sparkling wine cork made of solid cork that would be large enough, so having this disk of prime cork while the remainder is less expensive composite cork material is basically the next best thing. Having just one fat disk at the bottom is more or less the same thing as if the wine was bottled under one single-piece cork, from the perspective of TCA.

I think most of the corked bubbly wines have been bottled under composite corks that don’t have that separate disk part, although I’ve had a handful of corked Champagnes and other bubbly wines bottled under such corks, too.

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You are correct that TCA is, as a general rule, more easily detected in white wines than in red wines. This observation has been replicated in several studies on a variety of white and red wines. The exact reasons are not fully understood, but it appears likely to be related to how TCA interacts with other compounds in the wine. In red wines, the presence and structure of abundant phenolic compounds (for example) may reduce the volatility of TCA such that less of it makes it to your nose. That means that not only are you less likely to smell TCA directly; it is also less able to interfere with your nose’s ability to accurately perceive other aroma compounds.

This is true not only for TCA but for other compounds, too. Within red wines, much speculation and hand wringing occurs over the ability of phenolics to integrate, soften, mask, or modify Brett-related compounds and pyrazines, for example. I’d say at this point that we know there are effects but that we don’t know very much about the nature of those effects, though some people will confidently tell you they do.


The only thing in life you can be truly confident of is the confidence of those who speculate with authority!

I have had corked wines from all over the world. I have had a much higher rate with white Burgundy than any other wine. Have had not corked white wine from Italy, and a few from California. Some reds from everywhere, maybe a few more from California

I too have had corked wines from all over the world except NZ. Never had a corked wine form there. I see little difference in corked wine of whites versus reds. Maybe the phenols cover up corking in reds but I am very TCA sensitive so there is that. We have wine notes going back nearly 40 years with corking listed quite clearly.

Absolutely yes/agreed/ditto on both. I stopped buying Italian wines due to the high fail factor until 2016 rolled around and I bought up some more. Hopefully the ‘meh, close enough…looks like cork…’ mentality has passed.

Interesting also on the ratio - why would reds have a higher fail rate? I’ve found that as well.

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I have also found a higher fail rate with reds, this despite the apparent fact that reds offer some protection. For wines with low levels of TCA, I would expect that relative transparency of whites would make them more susceptible, but that’s not my experience (my consumption is now very approximately equal quantities of red and white, with rose probably at 20+%).

Dan Kravitz

I am not sure that Italy is worse than other regions, but I am sure that the current failure rate everywhere is absurd, in 2022. We are pushing hard for our producers to use Diam, Nomacorc, or Stelvin, and not to use either whole cork or other agglomerated cork types (other than Diam).

The cork taint rate is lower than it was, but still far too high, but a much larger problem is bottle to bottle variability, which is unavoidable with whole cork. We now have even Barolo producers using alternatives to whole cork, now that it’s permitted under the appellation rules. I like artisanal wine but not artisanal packaging.

I am sick of dealing with it. You all deserve better.

I don´t see much difference between red and white, except that I drink more red … and so there is more TCA found in those.
Maybe it´s easier detectable in whites, but I´m quite sensible to it at all …
(and a lot of Austrian whites now have screwcaps … while I don´t buy any ageable reds with Sc …)

Yes, there are also Champagnes with TCA … [head-bang.gif]

My first guess would be that reds are, on average, aged much longer than whites, giving more time for wine to penetrate into the cork and get access to any tainted parts. I’ve seen quite a lot of corks come through the labs and other wine environments I’ve worked in that, on the surface, seem ok, but a bottle was tainted because the wine made its way into the interior of the cork, where the problem lay. Corks that have been “cleaned” or “guaranteed TCA-free” by the supplier are particularly susceptible to this problem.

I don’t find any pattern of TCA in Italian wines, and I drink a lot from Piedmont and Tuscany. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to recall a corked Italian wine in the last couple of years.

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It’s amazing how different everyone’s experiences are. It’s become a running eye roll in my household when we open yet another corked Italian wine. I’m glad you’ve avoided the experience, and I hope it continues.