Youngest corked wine?

I’ve noticed that TCA seems to worsen with bottle age and air exposure; a “suspect” bottle showing signs of cork taint upon opening can transform into a horrendous cork monster after 30 minutes of air, and bottles with 10+ years age often show overt TCA immediately. This made me wonder if TCA somehow develops in the bottle over time, as I can’t recall opening a plainly corked wine with only a few years of age. So what’s the youngest obviously corked bottle you’ve opened?

At tasting events I’ve encountered numerous corked wines that were not even in general release yet.
Not horribly corked, but enough that others noticed independently.

P Hickner

Beaujolais Nouveau last Autumn.

Age of the wine has nothing to do with it being infected by TCA. It can be corked by the barrel before it even goes in the bottle.

I understand this. What I’m trying to establish is whether age worsens the impact of TCA contamination. The responses so far suggest that this is not a factor in perceiving TCA.

I had a 2007 Thibault Liger-Belair Gevrey-Chambertin La Croix des Champs last May that was very badly corked.

+1 Indeed, I’ve detected this at release events, in wines that had been in bottle less than a week. The curious thing is, a subsequent bottle pulled seemed clean. I’m not an expert, but that seems to rule out contamination in barrel.

This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. It suggests that TCA introduced via bottling/cork contact is virtually immediate and the severity is, in part, determined at this point.

TCA contamination takes only about 24 hours (depending on concentration of TCA to wine). It does get worse with air. I’ve noticed that several times. IN fact, one thing I do with marginal wines that I think might be corked is pour some in a glass and let it sit. 30 minutes later it will be worse if it’s TCA

At tasting events I’ve encountered numerous corked wines that were not even in general release yet.
Not horribly corked, but enough that others noticed independently.

It is always amazing how distributors and wineries don’t always check for corked wines prior to serving to the industry. I was at a great event Wednesday night with several $50 plus wines and no one decants or previews the wines. I don’t get it???

Wines are corked in a matter of hours, or minutes of the cork being placed in the bottle. I have tasted corked barrel samples that poured into bottles and corked, so they could last a few days.

Part of me wonders if some wines aren’t corked even


the cork is placed in the bottle…theory being that TCA can come from the cork or a variety of other sources.

As to the original question, the first time I was educated on TCA was at a winemakers event. California, white wine, 3 months in the bottle…corked. The winemaker pulled the bottle (which I actually quite liked) to replace it with an untainted one (which I liked better).

I would say though, if this is part of the original question, that a bottle that’s a little bit corked today would be more dramatically corked if you opened it several years from now. Likewise, a bottle that hints at corked when poured in the decanter will remove all guesswork 30 minutes later. So, yes…for whatever reason (and I’m not a chemist), TCA seems to be emboldened the longer it’s exposed to air.

I tasted a corked barrel sample at DRC once (drawn off and put in a bottle with a cork). And in a regular tasting I group I hosted where we usually tasted current releases, we averaged one corked bottle in each 8-wine tasting for many years. (Happily, the average is MUCH lower in the last couple of years.)

So I don’t see it getting worse with age. But it was much more prevalent before the mid-2000s, so that might be the explanation if you’ve experienced it more in older wines.

As has been noted a bottle of wine can be infected with TCA and other haloanisoles from sources other than the cork that closes it since halophenols are widely available in the environment though pesticides and fire retardants and halogenated cleaning products in contact with wood and can be transformed by a variety of moulds to haloanisoles and be present in e.g. wooden structures [winery cellars, pallets, barrels] and insulation as well as water supplies and bentonite et al. Airborne transfer to wood, poorly stored corks and the wine itself is also possible.

However on the basis that the question was directed at the transfer from the cork closure to the wine [the majority transfer route for tainted wine] the speed of transfer and individual equilibrium between cork and wine will depend on how ‘releasable’ the TCA is in/on the cork including where it is relative to the wine cork interface. There have been studies done to measure the time TCA takes to reach equilibrium in the wine and cork.

IIRC it is pretty safe to say that a cork infected with TCA prior to insertion [a sound cork can pick up external TCA on its top surface from local infections] will transfer some TCA very quickly but the maximum available might take some more time.

Two separate studies using radioactively tagged TCA by firstly the AWRI and then by a major cork producer have shown that external TCA [e.g. from a cellar or an OWC] does not penetrate to the wine in a soundly corked bottle even if the TCA is placed on the top of the cork.

However an ETS study [sponsored by the Natural Cork Quality Council] showed that while TCA in a previously infected cork will reach equilibrium quickly when soaked in wine it took longer when a tainted cork is placed in a bottle of wine. The ETS study showed 15% of the ‘releasable’ TCA in the wine, at one month, based on prior cork soak data and 50% at 14 months.

Another independent study showed a faster development [up to 2 months] of TCA in the wine so it is highly unlikely that a significant percentage of tainted wine would take much more than a year to become evident and most would be evident to a low threshold taster more or less immediately.

Obviously the position and distribution of TCA on a cork will affect the rate of transfer but the measured [by GC-MS] reduction in TCA from 2001 to 2008 in USA imported cork bales was 80% and the fault clinics at major wine competitions also show a major reduction over the same period.

In addition unless the timing of general consumption has altered substantially, the fact that TCA is being called much less frequently, in line with the measured reduction in TCA in cork, suggests there is no significant likelihood of the reduction in recent years being due to any delay in TCA transfer from a tainted cork to the wine.

As has been suggested, if one has a perception that older wine is more likely to be corked than wine from recent vintages the explanation is that corks are very much less likely to be infected with TCA today than they used to be rather than TCA takes time to transfer to wine from an infected cork.

Edit typo