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'Corked' and other defective wines

I’ve noticed a few comments in recent days about unfortunate cases of ‘corked’ wines. Having had that experience myself on Christmas Day with the intended showpiece red, I just wondered what % of bottles others have experienced in the last year or so which have been 1) ‘corked’ or 2)otherwise technically defective.

I’m not talking about wines that you just didn’t like, or which have gone ‘over the hill’ but ones with clear defects - not temporary cork stink either.

I have had 3 - curiously all Rhone wines, and all red. Two from my own cellar, once while dining out. I would add that in the case of a WS wine from my cellar (CNdP), a same day refund was applied. The other one was a Cote Rotie not WS. The one when eating out was replaced immediately with complete agreement with my comment. It was a CdR.

I suspect that the fact that all three were Rhone reflects in part at least my drinking preferences…the sample size was probably about 100…or just over :slight_smile:

I have had White Burgundy syndrome in the past, but the last one was a Javillier Cuvee Oligocene about 4 years ago. I had sold most of the rest of the case before that fortunately…although the final bottle I had last year was fine.

It would be interesting to hear others’ experiences and whether you think the proportion is about the same as always.


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I had my first defective TWS wine this weekend as it happens - the Sylvain Pataille Bourgogne. It sucks when it happens, especially when it’s a bottle you’ve been looking forward to. A quick call this morning and the credit’s going on my account though, so I can’t grumble!

So that’s almost 3 years of wine orders, I dread to think how many bottles, and I’ve only had one bad one. That’s pretty good!

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I reckon its about 5% of what I have opened but closer to 10% for White Burgundy.

It’s been a few years since I’ve had a corked bottle. I think I’m probably averaging one bottle every three or so years, except for the 6 bottles of Champagne I had a good while back where 4 were faulty (and TWS refunded them)

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2 ex 120ish bottles.

Fortunately I had multiples so it didn’t create any problems and also showed how clearly faulty the defective wines were.

I’ve got 400 bottles down as consumed in Cellartracker over the last few years, probably as much again that have been bought and opened and only one had genuine cork taint. Totally foul and unmistakable. So I must be lucky. I get reduction more often, but it tends to be on cheaper wines, so not sure it’s a fault as such. I like Musar, so have a high tolerance for Brett and VA. I struggle to tell oxidation though. I tend to buy wines in the ones and twos, but the odd time I’ve bought a case I have had the odd bottle that is prematurely aged. When it’s just a single bottle I don’t know if it’s just how the wine is, or going through a dumb phase or what. Any tips?

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I think I have had only 4 or 5 badly corked wines (off the top of my head) and I believe they have all been red, though my memory is not the best for these things … and that is out of several hundred bottles last year (hence the memory issues I suspect)


I’ve only ever had around 3 or 4 max of wines having cork taint. The last one a year or so ago. It was a sparkling Italian and it was the second to be opened so it was very obvious.
I also stupidly purchased a case of 6 lower value Chardonnays and 6 Merlots from an auction house about a year ago too for the MIL who would drink most things .
I opened a bottle to cook with ( :joy:) and my god the stench was horrendous! I opened them all, the red and the white and they were all the same. The only thing I can think of is they had been stored in very warm temperatures as they were destroyed.
I’ve learned my lesson of buying wines from Auction houses!!

I get quite a few. Maybe one every couple of months, so that would be one in 25 at a guess.

Maybe I’m sensitive to them. I include wines which maybe have other faults, I don’t keep notes on them nor remember.

I feel that whites are less affected although I’ve had badly corked whites, as well as oxidised ones. Maybe white wine is less susceptible or we,ve less sensitive to it, but it’s more often red.

TWS is very good on refunds so no problem there.

I think this is why Toby is pushing for Diam corks for the Burgundies.

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Perceptions of cork taint vary, and at low level fruit is suppressed so one can dismiss a wine one doesn’t know as dull rather than faulty.

Jamie Goode reports of 20,000 wines tasted at International Wine Challenge, cork taint affects between 2 and 3%*. He calls that ‘reassuringly low’, but its a level we wouldn’t accept in milk, coca-cola, baked beans or other goods.

I wonder what percentage of TWS wines are reported by customers?

Whatever we may have suffered with corked wines over the years, this puts it in perspective

And from the same source some, in fact a lot of information on closures in general.

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That is a LOT of information on closures!!

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Personally, I get just a tiny percentage of corked wines nowadays whereas a decade ago I reckoned on at least 10%. So either corks are improving or I’m less sensitive than I was. I dearly hope that it’s the former!


I’ve been with the WS for about 30 years and not had any corking problems, unless you include crumbling corks. They are a pain and it’s always because I’m in a hurry. I’m more anxious about sediments/deposits and would welcome a note about the need to decant in the tasting notes.

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This sounds horrendous! :see_no_evil: I hope you didn’t pay too much for them?! I’ve never had the misfortune of smelling a ‘cooked’ wine, but it sounds worse than the cork taint smell? :nauseated_face:

In all my years of drinking wine, I too have encountered very few properly nasty corked wines, and I definitely think it’s improved as the years have gone on. But why is it always the really lovely expensive ones that end up corked?! :sob:

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Luckily I’ve never had a corked wine, but of course now I have said it, I shall be back on here in a few days with an update!

I’m almost looking forward to it, almost.


I think that part of the answer to your last question is that the better wines still tend to be cork closures, and that they are kept for longer - not sure if the latter worsens the problem or not though.
There may also be a tendency with cheaper wines just to think that it’s a pretty ordinary wine, not corked, as milder cases may not be readily recognisable - until you taste one that isn’t!



Summarising the above, it would appear that current (guess)timates of cork taint occurrence is about 3% (so my experience is quite typical - and some lucky folk haven’t had any), and that this has probably fallen a fair bit in the last 10-20 years.

Sometimes it’s only obvious when you’ve either had the wine before, or have opened more than one bottle. Some cork taint is very obvious as the wine is actively unpleasant, sometimes it’s not as obvious, or it could just be cork stink. I remember being at a tasting a few years ago at a local Majestic, and one of the wines being tasted was Musar. Those tasting it ‘straight from the bottle’ as it were, found it actively unpleasant, and thought it was corked. In practice it was that ‘animal’/reductive/brett smell that is quite typical when you just open a Musar. I hung around for an hour - tasting other wines of course - and there was a transformation in the Musar…also meant I got more of it!

I wasn’t intending to open another bottle of the faulty Christmas Day wine (CNdP - Font de Michelle, Etienne Gonnet) for quite a while, but I might now open one sooner, to see if the problem was isolated to a single bottle.