Ask the Wine Wise Guy: What is Corked Wine and is it Okay to Cook with It?

Our expert answers the nagging questions that sommeliers and wine columnists hear most often.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Wine expert Anthony Giglio is constantly fielding questions about the great grape from amateur drinkers and pro collectors alike. Now you can ask him yours: Tweet it to him at @WineWiseGuy and check back every Tuesday afternoon for the answer.

The answer: According to the esteemed author @JancisRobinson, who edits the Oxford Companion to Wine, "It is commonly, but erroneously, believed that a wine with small fragments of cork floating in it is 'corked.' This may be a serving fault but is certainly not a wine fault."

Well put. This particular affliction occurs when a wine sealed with a cork (versus a screw cap) exudes musty, moldy, cardboardy, wet dog aromas. The culprit: a nasty organic compound called 2,4,6-trichloranisole, or TCA, which is a microbial fungus that live in some corks. When TCA comes in contact with wine it ruins it, dulling its fruit and giving it that awful aroma. It's estimated that 5-12% of all wines sealed with corks are infected with TCA.

The good news: It can't hurt you at all if you drink it, but trust me, you don't want to. But would I cook with a wine that's corked? Not a chance! My rule of thumb is to cook only with wines that I would drink, and most especially wines that I like to drink while cooking. I often buy cheap, light, non-oaked whites at my local shop for five or six bucks to cook with (like pinot grigio). What I never, ever buy is anything labeled "cooking wine," which is a science project in a bottle.

—Follow Anthony Giglio on Twitter at @WineWiseGuy.

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