We’ve all been there: Desperately staring into the neck of a wine bottle, wondering why, on today of all days, the cork decided to crack and do a cannonball right into the depths of our precious vino. First, you think, ‘Okay, I’ll just use a paper towel to get the crumbs out,’ but we all know that leads to an unsatisfying taste of cork-dust wine, mixed with just enough soggy paper towel bits to make you gag. And if you’re thinking a coffee filter will help, it won’t.
If you truly want to avoid conducting a cork search-and-rescue mission this weekend, you should think about how you store your wine. That’s right: There’s a reason why wine is kept lying down in wine racks.
“Bottles of wine should be stored horizontally to keep the wine in contact with the cork and help prevent the cork from drying out,” wine critic and writer Joanna Simon told Cosmopolitan.
If a wine cork drys out, it becomes brittle, causing it to find a permanent residence in the neck of your wine bottle. And even if you manage to pull it out in one piece, several tiny bits of cork will still somehow end up floating around in your wine.
“Corks can become crumbly and friable with age — it being a natural product,” Simon added. Aside from being fragile, weak, and susceptible to drying out if stored incorrectly, corks are also sensitive to what tool you use to pull them out. “Poor corkscrews, with a sharp bevelled edge, rather than a smooth, rounded one, are more likely to break corks.”
What is corked wine?
The phrase “corked wine” is often used to describe wine that either tastes or smells bad, but in reality, the phrase relates to the cork itself.
“Most corked wines, including most of the worst, most musty, dank smelling wines, are the result of the cork being tainted with a very powerful chemical compound known as TCA,” Simon explained.”This transfers from the cork to the wine. The main way it gets into the cork is when the cork is being processed and is treated with chlorinated anti-fungal products.”
According to the Wine Institute, TCA — which stands for trichloroanisole — is defined as “the natural compound that at higher levels can impart ‘musty’ flavors and aromas to wines, other beverages, and foods.” Sounds a lot grosser when it’s written out, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about a corked wine; once a wine is corked, it’s sadly ruined forever. But we do have a way around the problem: Buy screw-capped wine! And i you have a special bottle you’re saving, just remember to keep it horizontal.