Today, we’re talking about a popular wine myth, and whether or not we should smell the cork of our wines.
So, there is this video online of a sommelier claiming that it is not a good idea to smell the cork of your wine, and that if you do it’ll tell you nothing about the wine (find this video at the end of the article, or watch the key moments in my explanation video down below).
Well, let me tell you that this is complete BS, and I will explain why!
The worst part is that that video has 170K views!
So, there’s potentially 170 thousand of you out there thinking you shouldn’t smell your cork.
This guy makes a video claiming to debunk a wine myth, the myth that you should smell the cork of a wine after uncorking the bottle, and he actually creates a wine myth, and a false one at that.
So, let me explain…
Watch my Explanations in Video, and continue reading further down below:
When you uncork of a bottle of wine, it is a good idea to smell the cork. And you want to do so straight away, just after you’ve pulled the cork out of the bottle.
A wine cork should smell only one of three things:
- #1- nothing: a lot of corks smell of nothing indeed, especially plastic ones, and that’s a good thing. It means your wine has not taken any fault from the cork, it hasn’t been tainted by the smell of the cork. That’s great!
- #2, a wine can smell of wood, or slightly smoky wood. Very good corks have a soft smell of wood. That’s especially true with high-end natural corks. This is generally a good sign. If your cork smells good, chances are the wine will taste good too.
- #3, a cork can smell of wine, especially if the wine has started to get through the cork. This is particularly the case with old wines that have been stored or cellared for a long time. Again, it is fine if your cork smells of wine. It would generally mean again that the wine hasn’t been affected by the smell of the cork.
So, all of these 3 smells are fine, and indeed you will learn very little or nothing about what the wine tastes like from smelling the cork.
Where it gets interesting though, is if your cork smells dusty, like an old humid cave or cellar, like mushroom or fungi, or a little bit cheesy.
This means that the cork may have started to rotten a little bit, or that it is affected by cork taint.
Cork taint comes from a very specific molecule called TCA. If your cork smells like TCA, you’re pretty much guaranteed that your wine will smell of it too. And that’s bad. If I smell TCA when I smell the cork, I will make sur that I smell the wine before I taste. If the wine smells like TCA, super-dusty and funky, I won’t bother tasting the wine so I don’t put this awful taste on my palate.
So, this is one good reason you should smell a cork.
The second reason if that some corks can not be dramatically affected by TCA, but still smell a little dusty, like fungi or an old dusty cellar.
When it’s like this, the wine will generally be ok to taste and drink. But if I’ve uncorked a bottle with a cork that has a dusty smell, I will pay particular attention during the tasting if I can detect a dusty flavor into the wine as well. Sometimes a wine can appear to taste perfectly fine, but have just a little dusty element in the background. If I’ve smelt the cork and found that it was dusty, I know that the dusty/funky element in the wine came from the cork, and is not a trait from the wine itself.
When I do professional tastings (like as a judge at the Los Angeles Int’l Wine Comp), which is kind of what I do for a living. If I detect a bad cork, I will take another bottle to write my review about the wine, so I don’t judge a wine unfairly considering it is a bad wine while it is just a bad bottle.
I also think if you are at a restaurant, and you have a good sommelier, he should be able to detect a bad cork and a bad bottle, and he should be able to confirm that the bottle he gave you isn’t 100%, and he should replace it.
I mean, at least if you’re paying a lot of money for a very fine expensive bottle of wine.
If it’s for a cheap bottle, I guess it might be fair enough that they are not all 100%. But if you’re spending a lot on a bottle of wine you’ve been saving for, you should get the best possible experience out of it.
I get why sommelier tell you you shouldn’t smell a wine cork. Because they don’t want you to know that they’ve poured you a ‘bad’ bottle. So they don’t have to change the bottle, and take it back to the producer.
But think about it!
If you’re paying for a wine and you’re not enjoying it. You’re going to think the restaurant doesn’t have a great selection, you’re going to think this winery doesn’t make great wine and there’s a good chance you go back to this restaurant or buy this wine ever again. All of this because of a dusty cork.
So, I think you should definitely smell your cork instantly after uncorking the bottle. It will tell you a lot about your wines.
What do you think? Convinced?
Let me know in the comment section down below, or by commenting on my videos on YouTube.
Related Video, Watch & Learn: 5 Top Facts You Didn’t Know about Corked Wine
For reference, below is the Wine Myths video made by the Art of Manliness, supposedly debunking several wine beliefs and superstitions: