Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! We are fortunate to have such a large variety of wines to try from a huge selection of regions around the world. Whether you prefer to keep things simple and grab your favorite vino time and time again or live the adventurous life and drink a new wine every time, there are some situations in the world of wine that cannot be avoided.  

Picture this: you’ve selected a lovely bottle of wine to pair with your meal. Time is taken to carefully decant the wine; the correct glasses have been chosen and you’ve even made sure not to eat anything too strong in order not to overwhelm the pure flavor in the wine. You take a sniff and it is intense and amazing! In anticipation, your mouth starts watering and your tastebuds tingle. You take a sip and something is missing. The wine doesn’t taste bad, it just tastes flat, muted or even musty. The wine is corked!  

This problem can occur in any bottle that is sealed with a cork and it is often due to an interaction with the cork and the wine, commonly known as “cork taint”. A wine may seem perfectly fine at first, just like the Chateau Cantenac but further sniffs of the glass reveal a fading of intensity and a lack of aroma.

On the palate, wines affected by cork taint lose sharpness and clarity. Some people may taste old newspaper or cardboard akin to the scents of a musty basement. These scents or flavors are not necessarily harmful but they certainly detract from the enjoyment of your wine experience.

What can be done when a wine is corked? Unfortunately, not much can be done to “fix” the flavors and intensity of the wine but the situation can be slightly ameliorated by vigorous swirling or jostling of the wine in the glass. Pairing a wine like the Chateau Cantenac with a decent cheddar can help draw out hidden flavors as well, but in the end, the wine is not behaving the way it normally would.

Some enthusiasts will try everything they can to get some enjoyment out of a corked wine but my professional opinion is to move on to something else. This is especially true when the wine has an amazing bouquet on the nose but the contrast on the palate is too polarizing. I kept sniffing the wine and getting excited only to be disappointed every time I took a sip, hoping it had somehow breathed enough to finally open up. Sometimes we just have to move on and accept that the wine is not as it should be. Wine can often be returned for an exchange if it tastes bad so that is another option.

This experience teaches us that even the best quality wines can suffer from blemishes and faults but in reality, only an average of 1% of wines will be affected by cork taint. There’s no easy way to know what you’re going to taste until you open the bottle and have a sip but it’s important to understand when to let a bad wine go. Let your tastebuds (and nose) guide you and be honest with your experience. It’s taken me a long time to get there! Here are my wine and whiskey picks of the week!  

Chateau Cantenac Grand Cru 2009: (AOC Saint-Emilion, France). Dry red, deep ruby color with signs of fading. At first, the nose is vibrant and full of juicy brambleberry fruit, blackberries, cassis, smoked meat, mustard seed, graphite mineral, pencil shavings and cloves. This Bordeaux has medium intensity on the palate and unfortunately, the incredible notes from the nose are not present on the palate. Muted, flat flavors of dark fruit can be sensed but lack definition and intensity. Medium body, medium acidity. Graphite or pencil shaving/earth comes through slightly but the finish is muddled and obscured with a general musty flavor. Some warming pepper and baking spice can be tasted but this is the perfect example of a “corked” wine. It is still drinkable but it is a shadow of what great Bordeaux wine should be. Some enjoyment can be found but the wine gets knocked down by several points. Average. $40, 14% ABV

Chateau Claire Abbaye Bordeaux Superieur 2017: (Bordeaux, France). Dry red, deep ruby color with tones of violet. Opening with a simple nose of balsamic cherry, black pepper, blackberries and a hint of earth, this French wine finds balance between fruit and oak spice. To the taste, blackberries, dark cherries, pencil shavings, light vanilla and black pepper combine with medium-plus tannins and a medium-length finish of lingering oak, hints of pepper and soft tannin bitterness. Medium body with medium acidity. There aren’t any developing flavors with this one so open it up and drink it now with a grilled steak, sauteed mushrooms or an aged cheddar. Smooth, mellow and affordable, this Bordeaux doesn’t pack a huge punch but it is still an excellent sipping wine by the fireplace/campfire. Good! $24, 14% ABV     

Redbreast Lustau Edition Irish Whiskey: (Republic of Ireland). Irish whiskey aged 9 to 12 years and finished in ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso sherry casks. Deep golden color. The nose is packed full of toffee, apple crisp, caramel, deep woody oak, fall apples and honeycomb. This Irish whiskey is luxurious on the palate with a full-bodied display of green/red apples covered in caramel, toffee, oak spice and butterscotch. The sherry cask influence is more apparent on the nose but the weight of this spirit is lovely. Each sip warms the body and soul and conjures images of Irish orchards glowing in the late fall light. The finish is satisfying and long with a drying effect in the mouth. Feeling chilled? Cozy up with a warm blanket and a dram of this beautifully crafted whiskey. Very good! $90, 46% ABVCheers and thanks for reading!