A “Corked” wine is a wine that has been affected by a cork that is contaminated with TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole). Wines that have been affected by a tainted cork will smell musty like wet cardboard. The longer the wine is exposed to the air, the more intense the odor and the wine usually taste rather nasty and lacking of fruit as well. Some people can detect TCA in quantities as small as 5 parts per trillion while others have trouble detecting it even at very high levels. Even if the TCA is not evident in the smell, small quantities can subdue the aromas and flavors of the wine and make it undesirable.
TCA is not a health risk, it just imparts objectionable aromas and flavors. It is estimated that the incidence of this sort of taint ranges from 2 to 5% of all bottles using corks. The rather high incidence of corked wines has led many producers to use alternative closures such as synthetic corks or screw caps. Cork producers and suppliers are also taking steps to reduce the occurrence of tainted corks through the modernization of facilities and process refinements.
If you get a “corked” wine, you should return it to the retailer where it was purchased or refuse it in a restaurant. Wineries stand behind their product and work towards customer satisfaction. Check the bottle when opened and before it is poured around the table since the retailer is less likely to accept back an empty bottle.