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Quick Fix for Corked Wine

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2012

Can anything be done with a corked bottle of wine—besides pour it down the drain?

The chemical culprit responsible for a “corked,” or tainted, bottle of wine—which will have an unmistakable musty smell and acrid taste—is TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole). TCA is produced when fungi naturally present in the cork encounter chlorophenols—ironically a product of the chlorine bleaching process used to sterilize cork. While TCA is harmless to health, it renders wine undrinkable.

It never occurred to us that there might be a way to salvage the wine, but with a little digging, we actually found a quirky recommendation: Submerge a ball of plastic wrap in the wine and let it sit for a while. As odd as it sounds, the theory behind the suggestion makes sense: The polyethylene material attracts the TCA, effectively removing it from the wine.

With nothing to lose, we tracked down four corked bottles, poured half of each into a jar with a loose wad of plastic wrap, sealed the lids, and soaked them for 10 minutes, shaking each sample occasionally. When we sipped the treated wines, we found that the nasty “dirty-socks” odor and bitterness from the TCA were indeed greatly reduced. But we also noticed that the plastic had absorbed many of the desirable aromatic compounds, leaving the wines tasting flat and muted—and still unfit for drinking or cooking. Your best bet: Return the tainted wine for a refund.

THE PULL OF PLASTIC

Submerging plastic wrap in tainted wine removes bitter taste—but also pulls out desirable flavor compounds in the process.