Pav on Juice: What is TCA and How Do You Recognize It?

Pavle MilicOctober 2, 2020
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Everything is just right. You decanted that special bottle of wine you bought on vacation six years ago to accompany the anniversary dinner that you lovingly cooked for your significant other. Letting the dry-aged ribeye rest, you set the table and take the Dauphinoise potatoes out of the oven. Finally, you both sit down to clink clink over the momentous occasion, with candlelight flickering and Wilco playing in the background. You pop the cork, swirl and sniff. Alas, the aromas are dulled and anticlimactic.

What gives? Corked wine is what. And all you have left in the wine fridge is a $10 Pinot from Sprouts.

What is corked wine, and how do you recognize it? In the food and wine world, it’s colloquially known as TCA. In science speak: 2,4,6-trichloroanisole. It’s a fungal metabolite that hitches a ride into bottles via contaminated corks. And it’s hard to miss: You’ll notice a muted fruity character overpowered by musty, wet newspaper. This is the main reason you do the proverbial “nose check” – not the ’80s kind – in restaurants. It is totally acceptable to ask for another bottle if you detect it, unless the server or manager doesn’t agree and refuses – in which case, assuming the wine is corked, you’re dealing with really bad service.

There are more than a handful of local winemakers, like Kent Callaghan and Todd Bostock, who prefer screw caps, mainly because it greatly reduces the likelihood of cork taint. At our Los Milics winery, we decided to use only screw caps for the same reason. Yeah, there’s no celebratory pop, but at the end of the day, it’s all about good wine. So next time you’re selecting a bottle for a special occasion or a vacation, be sure to include some local juice and eliminate TCA from your next din-din.

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