Corks: To Sniff Or Not To Sniff?

20160721_083046By: Jaclyn Bressette

Most of you have been in the scenario of ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant. Typically, the bottle is brought to the table, and then the cork is removed and presented to the person who ordered it. But why? Most people have no clue what’s behind the ritual or what the heck to do with it. So most will stick it up to their noses and take a whiff. New rule: don’t do that, don’t sniff the cork! Honestly, there’s not terribly much that sniffing can tell you other than the obvious…. it smells like cork!

So, here’s the quick history to why this is done in the first place. Everyone knows France to be the producer of FABULOUS wines – especially from the Bordeaux region. Well, some pretty awful people decided they wanted in on the money that these magical wine producers were bringing in without any of the work required to create it. So, they made labels identical to some of the best Châteaus and smacked them on far inferior wines, making tons of money off of the counterfeit bottles. Now, of course this was NOT acceptable to the original wine houses, so they started using special inscriptions on the corks to signify the authenticity of the wine in the bottle. People would be able to know almost immediately when they had a counterfeit bottle of wine versus the real thing. So, the tradition of presenting the cork has remained and is considered more of a formality.

So, what do you do when they hand you a cork? Pick it up and look at it – you want a nice even line all the way around (this indicates a nice tight seal). For older wines, the cork will simply tell you how it’s been stored. You want the cork moist but not squishy of course! So yes, please inspect the cork. Other than that… hang onto it. If it’s a special occasion, I love to write on mine the date and occasion it was consumed before tossing it in my cork jar.

However, IF you are blessed enough in your wine fortune to be holding onto now or ever order a Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, a Château Petrus, a Château Lafite Rothschild, or a Sassicaia (to name only a few of the most counterfeited wines)… PLEASE, I beg of you…. check the cork!!!…among other things.