TCA (Trichloro-anisol) or “Cork Taint” is a musty creation that affects an estimated 1 in 20 bottles (or more) of wines sealed with natural cork. It’s not the fault of the winery or winemaker, and doesn’t indicate anything more than a fault in the cork itself.
The chemical is created from reactions either in nature, or during the processing of cork bark into wine corks, but detecting it before the cork is used to seal a bottle is just not possible. Eventually, contact of wine with cork will result in a wine that is tainted with the chemical.
One part per million in any wine is easily detectable by a large percentage of wine drinkers…but most people don’t know it’s not the wine’s fault. The wine will smell and taste like wet, musty newspapers, or sweat socks, or wet dog. I usually tell people to imagine finding a sleeping bag resting in a mud puddle under a pile of logs on a hot day. Not a pleasant aroma, but not the wine’s fault! Whether you smell it just a tiny bit, or a lot, it’s not going to taste good at all!
The correct response is to return the bottle to the place you purchased it, still full and with the cork intact. It will be replaced so you can taste a new bottle…one you may love! Don’t miss the opportunity to exchange the bottle and taste how the wine was meant to taste.
I discovered an in-depth listing of the most prevalent wine faults at http://www.bcawa.ca/winemaking/flaws.htm, written from a competition judge point of view, but it’s a great way to read a full list of wine faults & flaws to learn.
Knowing these faults and flaws will help you avoid the impulse to drink bad wine, or to pre-judge wines that might just be fantastic. You can save money by exchanging bad bottles for good, and enjoy your wine drinking experiences much more fully.