I was having dinner the other night with a winery rep and another wine writer when I ventured the opinion that not only are natural corks better today than they were just a few years ago, but that the cork taint problem had been overstated. Fifty percent? Fifteen percent? Even five or ten percent was higher than my experience suggested, I said.
“Well, maybe you just can’t detect TCA,” my wine writing “colleague” smirked, referring to the chemical compound that causes cork taint.
SLAM! BAM! Down for the count! I had stepped in front of an oncoming locomotive, grabbed the third rail, whatever corny metaphor you want to use. I stammered that of course I can detect TCA, but it was no use. I had set myself up, and had no choice but to swallow hard and nurse my humiliation through the rest of the meal.
But here’s the rub: Any self-respecting wine bore (is there any other kind?) believes he is expert at detecting minute amounts of cork taint. There is an incentive to exaggerate the problem because no one wants to be vulnerable to the “you can’t detect TCA” insult.
I’m not saying cork taint doesn’t exist. I’m merely suggesting that oenomachismo, the dark side of wine appreciation, may lead poseurs to overstate it in order to “prove” their wine tasting prowess and their own vinous superiority.
And well, I guess I’m saying, don’t have dinner with wine writers. They’re such bores.
We tasted seven wines with dinner. All had been sealed with natural cork, with nary a trace of cork taint. Yet somehow, they all tasted off to me. Perhaps nothing pairs well with bile.