Learning what TCA tastes like.

I have read my fair share about what TCA should taste like because I am probably overly paranoid about possibly having a tainted bottle. Only problem is that I havehad a few bottles that I have been suspicious of, but was never able to confirm. Is there a way to actually learn what TCA tastes like? Should I ask local wine shops if they have corked bottles that I can taste?

How did most people here learn what corked wine actually tastes like?

It’s really more about what it smells like: musty, wet newspaper, a damp, moldy room. When you encounter it, you will know.

+1 wet cardboard, grandma’s basement. Every time I encounter it, there is no gray area. It is in your face.

When I was becoming acquainted with wine I didn’t have a name to associate with TCA/corked, brett, VA, or sulfur faults. I did know something was wrong without being told, and those four faults were distinctly different enough to tell apart. Gradually, other wine drinkers filled in the identification.
Unless you are not sensitive to TCA, you will know something is wrong with the wine and you won’t need confirmation for the decaying newspapers in the basement mustiness. It does take more practice to know when a bottle is affected right on or below your personal threshold. The only way to learn this is by drinking with people who have a higher sensitivity, and ideally have a clean bottle to compare with the TCA affected bottle. If you attend tastings, corked bottles with annoying frequency, and as often as not, people with different sensitivities will disagree on the presence of TCA.

P Hickner

Yup, it’s not a taste, it’s a smell – Wet cardboard that’s been sitting in the basement. For me, this is different from an old bookstore or similar, which I think is sometimes enjoyable.

And, while it’s not a particular taste, it does impact taste by muting flavors. It makes for a “dead” wine.

The cork does not smell like cream filled chocolates.
It smells like Michael wrote ^ add mushroom, and some moist sports wear in a sealed plastic bag, left for a week.
-Seriously, it can be so weak it’s hard to detect, and all the way up to a room filler!

Don’t hunt it. It will come to You.

That’s what I always thought, but there were a few that smelled that way, almost like wet dog, but after a couple hours ended up okay. If a wine is truly corked, will the smell stay no matter how long the bottle is open?

Walk in to a good wine shop. They’ll likely have a heavily corked bottle that someone returned or they opened.

Only getting worse with time open, in My experience. Does not blow off… Maybe it even blossoms ?


I have lived with (wet) dogs all My life, and they smell of wet dog!
This TCA/TBA is a musty, old smell. produced by living molds, often naturally existing on the cork trees.

Wet animals are more in the brett department. (And it can somehow blow off with air.)
Edit : (And it can somewhat blow off with air.)


After a couple of hours you may have become accustomed to the smell, rather than it blowing off. TCA does not blow off. Some reductive notes will blow off, but TCA wont and brett wont (in my experience, brett, like TCA, is a contamination within the wine and once contaminated, cannot uncontaminate).

go into a wine shop and ask to smell / taste a corked. They should have some. the smell is wet cardboard

Was in a Napa tasting room on Sunday and the employee poured me a clearly corked glass of their most expensive wine. This a winery that charges for tastings (as many do now). I took a look at the bottle and there was maybe 1 or 2 glasses left. I’m continuously shocked at how many people just cannot tell if a wine is corked.

When I first got into wine, maybe 10 years ago, I went to a White Burgundy class at Moore Bros. in Manhattan, and one of the bottles was corked. They passed it around for everyone to smell, and sure enough, Grandma’s basement, clear as day! It was the perfect learning experience. I have since only experienced 4 or 5 bottles that were as definitively corked, so I either have good luck, or I’m not super sensitive to TCA.

So true! A friend and I had to point out a corked bottle to a rep pouring in a store once. She was puzzled and had to call over a store employee, who said, “Yup, corked.” The rep was clueless. I’ve also had bartenders deny it for wines that were badly spoiled.

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to recognize when it’s been pointed out to you a couple of times.

I’ve had that wet cardboard/newspaper smell once but it was also associated with a wine that was a little older and tasted like unsweetened dates and prunes. I thought it was just because the wine was cooked. Perhaps that was actually corked?

I had an aussie shiraz that was like that. Profoundly corked. No brainer. I’ve also missed on a few corked bottles and spotted a few others did not. I do think it’s harded to pick out TCA in wines that you’re unfamiliar with. So when you’re just starting and you’re tasting all sorts of stuff for the first time, whether it be varieties or vintages or regions, it’s infinitely more difficult to confidently spot faintly tained wines. If you’re drinking a case of 2012 Chateau Montelena Estate and 1 sticks out like a sore thumb with a musty wet cement note, no problem. When you’ve never had that one Chablis and everyone tells you it smells like crushed limestone and oyster shells, well, perhaps a harder call, especially if faintly corked.

Just keep at it. I see considerably fewer corked bottles now than I did 10 years ago. Maybe from 3-4% down to 1% or so?

My dad and I had an argument with a tasting host at Domaine Serene once, and my sister called a corked wine at Larkmead. The responses were profoundly different. Larkmead immediatley pulled the bottle, cracked another, showed side by side, thanked my sister. Domaine Serene argued that it wasn’t corked, that it was oak, etc.

No, you were right in thinking that prune, cooked fruit, and port-like notes are a sign of being cooked. It is possible the wine was also corked, but that would be a lot going on.

To echo some comments elsewhere on this thread, I think a better description of TCA would be mildewy basement or wet, moldy clothes — like that guy back in school who’d let his clothes sit in the washer for a day before sticking them in the dryer. Wet cardboard, wet dog, etc are too close to brett descriptors. Not that TCA doesn’t smell like wet cardboard, but if you are trying to learn the difference, I’d focus on the mildewy aspect.

To me, wet cardboard is the quintessence of TCA.