Bouchonné or Brettanomyces – 1976 Ch. Pommard

The owner of the bottle said it was corked but in my view it wasn’t. In fact some people who are excellent wine connoisseurs cannot detect when a cork is tainted. To understand about sending a bottle back in a restaurant, you should understand what is corked or as its said in French bouchonné.

A wine that is bouchonné is a very specific thing and a tainted “bouchonee” is a broad term referring to a wine fault characterized by a set of undesirable smells, or taste.

The chief cause is the presence of the chemical compounds TCA or TBA in the which in many cases will have been transferred from the cork. It is also possible that it was transferred through the cork rather than from it.

The detection is from the nose first and then from the taste. You can immediately smell an odor that overwhelms the glass, but it must always be the same smell, and should not be attributed to other aromas that occur over time.

A somewhat contentious aspect of beaucastel from the southern Rhone is that the wines often show brettanomyces character, which are considered a defect but is not. The grape mourvèdre can demonstrate a barnyard aromas and tastes and the first time I tasted it, I sent the bottle back. It isn’t truly a health issue to consume it even though I prefer not to.

The bottom-line when a wine is old, or has been stored in a condition that isn’t ideal, or the cork acts unto its own character. You should be tolerant of wines that are 25 years plus and realize that Burgundy wines are delicate and the grapes mature very differently than Bordeaux wines. That doesn’t mean that a wine that has a tainted cork has any specific origin. Any wine can be bouchonné from any country and at anytime and is not age dependent.

Note: this is one of my favorite types of cork. It is heavier than most because it has been drinking the wine and is healthy even though shriveled. There is no doubt that this cork was defective but a cork that’s defective doesn’t mean that it’s bouchonné. All it means is it’s less than ideal and drinkable and even pleasant but not 100% – you cannot send this bottle back.