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A TCA Mystery

We’ve had a very odd, but interesting experience this week. The telling takes a few turns, but stick with me here, it’ll all makes sense at the end, or will it…?

During the course having new water pipes installed in our basement, I had to empty out all the wine that we keep in our makeshift cellar, which is also the room where our water meter is. We now keep our wine in wooden cases or on racks, as we’ve graduated from those cardboard cases that used to populate “the cellar from hell.” One of the cases was a 6-pack that carried a half dozen 1998 Sena Red Wines that we purchased well over 10 years ago. Those wines are long gone; we enjoyed them all, and never detected any kind of taint in any of them. Since the case itself was still functional, about three years ago, we put five bottles of red wine in it for safe storage from a producer who has sometimes been accused of producing corked wine.

As I was putting the cellar back together a few days ago, I noticed the unmistakable odor of TCA emanating from the box, so I took the five bottles out, put them on the wine rack and took the box outside. I let Kim take a whiff (she’s even more sensitive to corked wine than I am), and she recoiled in disgust, as I knew she would. I put the box over by our shed about 50 feet from the back deck, and over the next few days, we both noticed that not only could we smell the taint when the wind was blowing in the right direction, but also that it seemed to get worse, just like corked wine that “opens” in the glass after it’s poured.

We were discussing this again a few days ago, and Kim remarked, “We need to open one of those bottles and see if it’s bad.” I dutifully traipsed down to the cellar and retrieved one. After removing the capsule, I took a quick sniff of the cork, still in the bottle, and sure enough, detected some of that repugnant “moldy wet cardboard” aroma, which my better half confirmed. Upon pulling the cork, however, the end that had been in contact with the wine itself shown no such taint, and when poured, neither did the wine, which is quite delicious. WTF?!

The question that seems obvious to both of us is where did the TCA come from? Did it originate from the bottles themselves, as seems most likely, and is it only in the capsule end of the corks? Did I luck out and pull one that is still OK, but may well not be so lucky with the next bottle? I could open the other four bottles to find out, but these are not inexpensive wines; they cost us in excess of $70 a bottle at the time of purchase. Curiouser and curiouser. We’d be most interested in any observations, learned or otherwise, that you may be able to offer, dear reader, so please, by all means, feel free to chime in, and thanks in advance for any and all thoughts!

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

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