Can TCA develop after bottling, and how does storage affect this? Geoff Taylor explains...

Does TCA to develop after bottling? Ask Decanter

Mark McKeown, Essex, asks: I recently opened a red Bordeaux second growth 2002 and immediately picked up the aromas associated with a corked wine.

I subsequently posted the cork back to the château for analysis and they confirmed that the cork was tainted with TCA. However, I was surprised by their comment that corked wines may arise due to ‘bad storing conditions or temperature fluctuations’.

Is it possible for TCA to develop after delivery? I thought that if TCA were to infect the cork then this would have occurred at some point up until the bottling process, and not after.

Geoff Taylor replies: Gosh, what an enormous subject area – I could write pages! Firstly, TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) is just one of a family of anisoles.

All smell musty, are very similar, are naturally occurring and found in many other materials in addition to cork.

Much of the damp, musty smell in old cellars or warehouses is down to these anisoles, which incidentally are also found in food products.

Anisoles are volatile and can crosscontaminate other products externally.

For example, the cardboard and wood of a clean, taint-free case in an old cellar may become impregnated with anisoles, or there may be some on the label or glass, but I have never known it enter the wine from the outside.

This answers the question as best I can, but given the ease of cross-contamination (handling the bottle, box etc) testing a cork is fraught with challenges re interpretation.


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