Cork Taint

Many people have probably experienced the “is it corked or not” discussion. Along with that debate comes the statement “If its corked, it will get worse”. I know that people have different thresholds for detection so that aspect is easy understand. Its also easy why the wine may never get worse for them because the wine is still below their threshold for detection. However, is there a technical basis for that assertion that TCA gets worse over time (and exposure to air)? I believe brett will bloom but I do not know if the same happens with TCA. Any insights?

I don’t think it gets worse as much as if it’s corked, it doesn’t “blow off” and get better. If there’s a question about a bottle we leave it for a bit and then come back to it and then it’s usually crystal clear (that we were right in the first place).

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Saw a good trick in a tasting room for a suspected bottle. Put a glass of wine to the side with a coaster on top. Guessing it’ll concentrate the aroma. Haven’t tried myself yet

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I find that TCA becomes easier to detect with air. I think that is in part because other volatile aromas that can “hide” it blow off but TCA doesn’t.


In my experience it gets worse with time and air.

Since TCA is stable, it’s hard for me to Get my mind around the idea of it getting worse with air or even blowing off. That being said, I can’t deny the prevalence of people saying it. I just wondered if there’s a scientific basis for those perceptions.

So nothing’s new in 12 years: Why does TCA seem to get worse in a glass? - #19 by Ken_McNamara

“Over time” could mean over time in bottle or over time after opening, and it’s worth addressing both.

TCA can get into wine pretty much immediately on bottling, but it can also get worse over time in bottle, especially as the wine begins to permeate the cork and become exposed to new sources of contaminant.

In the glass or in a decanter, the perception of cork taint can get better, worse, or stay the same. This depends very little on the actual TCA in the wine and much more on the other components. This is because of the masking or enhancing effects that certain chemical compounds have on how you smell other things. Over time in the glass, the concentration of TCA will decrease because it evaporates. But, for example, a wine that has a lot of sulfides (reduction) can appear more corked over time as the sulfides evaporate and reveal more of the TCA. A very young red wine with very mild TCA may appear less corked over time as the wine opens up and increasingly overcomes the muting effect of TCA.

If the TCA is at or just below the sensory threshold, it can blow off somewhat to a point where it isn’t impacting the wine much. But it’s not that volatile so this basically doesn’t happen in all but the edge cases.

this tracks my experience perfectly. if you swirl it and smell, it seems to hide it. put your hand over the top for a few seconds, remove your hand, do not swirl, stuck your nose in, usually the TCA becomes very apparent.

if some people at the table think it’s corked and some don’t, it’s corked. i’ve been at dinners where some people don’t care or they make other fault-like excuses. but corked is corked. it can only be bad or worse.


I’ve had the experience many, many times of pouring a wine, having several experienced and knowledgeable people speculate it might be corked, then all agree later on that it isn’t. My own experience is that wines can sometimes present initially with a mustiness that makes you think possible TCA, then clean up with air. I mean, obviously corked wines are corked, but sometimes things right at the detection threshold can be tricky.

I feel that the taster (their perception) changes over time. Both psychological and physiological factors are at play here.

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