Should You Smell the Cork When Opening Wine?

Smell the Cork When Opening Wine?

Should you smell the cork when opening wine? This is a common question during our wine tours to the Yarra Valley, and it’s understandable. After all, we’ve all seen someone sniffing a cork after opening a bottle — even professional sommeliers.

So, what’s the point of smelling a cork? Well, the answer might surprise you. And if you need a second opinion, take a private winery tour with Chauffeurdrive, Melbourne, Yarra Valley and ask the wine experts.

Winemakers in the Yarra Valley certainly have a strong opinion about it! Here’s all you need to know about smelling a cork after opening a bottle of wine.

Wine Faults Explained

What can go wrong with any particular bottle of wine? And can you tell by smelling a cork? Wine is a sensitive beverage. It might have a long, happy life, but it can also be ruined in a matter of hours. Wine’s worst enemies are heat and oxygen, and they all harm wine differently.

When oxygen finds its way into a closed bottle of wine, aerobic bacteria thrive, and these microscopic creatures love eating alcohol and turning it into vinegar.

If a bottle of wine is exposed to heat for too long, it gets ‘cooked’ and loses its freshness. It smells rancid and nutty, and all traces of fruit aromas disappear.

The question is, can you detect these faults by smelling the cork? Probably not. After all, they’re much easier to detect if you smell the wine itself. In these cases, there’s no use in smelling a cork.

What About Corked Wine?

Corked wine is a unique wine fault caused by a fungus that grows in cork trees. If the tree is infected, then the corks made with its bark are too, and they can taint the wine, making it smell like a damp basement and wet cardboard.

Some studies suggest 2% of all bottles capped with a cork are tainted with TCA, the chemical compound released by the harmful fungus. So, can you detect cork taint by smelling a cork? Well, sadly, no. Not even the better-trained sommeliers can detect the condition by smelling the cork alone. It is evident in the wine, though.

The Bottom Line

Cork smells like cork, and it’s a nice smell, that’s for sure. So, if you want to smell your cork, by all means, do so. Just know that there’s nothing in the cork’s smell to help you learn more about the wine or its possible faults.

Some people collect them! At the end of the day, the most important thing is opening bottles of Yarra Valley wine with the ones close to you.

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