Cork Issues

By Franz Scheurer


These couple of short scenarios are aimed squarely at the sommeliers out there.


Scenario 1

A couple is having a romantic dinner and they are presented with the wine they ordered. It's under screw cap. The sommelier opens the bottle, pours a tasting and comfortably waits for the answer. The lady tastes the wine, screws up her nose and proclaims: "This wine is corked!"


Question: what does the sommelier NOT do?

Answers: He does not make the lady feel inadequate by pointing out that the wine is under screw cap.

He immediately replaces the bottle without argument. It's good PR and hey, if it's ok then staff drinks are looking good tonight.


Question: what should the sommelier know?

Answer: the sommelier should be well aware that just because the bottle is under screw cap it does not prevent the wine from being TCA affected, in other words: cork tainted. There are many reasons why this can be so, affected staves in the barrel is just one of them. So knowing a screw-capped wine CAN be TCA affected leaves the sommelier to deal with the situation in an informed way.


Scenario 2

You just finished a terrific meal and the waiter serves you a beautiful cheese course. It's simply one piece of cheese, perfectly plated with some bread and breadsticks. Heaven. You take one bite, spit it out and proclaim: “This cheese is corked!”


Question: What does the waitperson NOT do?

Answer: Fall about in a heap laughing so hard the tears start streaming down his or her face. Again, remember the customer is actually paying your wages.


Question: What should the waitperson know?

Answer: Cheese can easily be affected by TCA. It is rare, but certain plastics can harbour TCA and chlorine is used in great quantities in dairies. Some cheeses are matured on wooden boards or packaged in wooden baskets or onto wooden palettes. All of these can be TCA affected and infect the cheese. Cheeses are particularly receptive and our ability to recognise minute amounts of TCA doesn’t help.


Both scenarios are very real (they happened to me) and it is good to know in advance how to react. J