Can You Actually Learn Anything From Sniffing The Wine Cork?

Let's set the scene. You're sitting down to a nice dinner out and you order a bottle of wine for the table. The server or sommelier opens the wine for you and presents you with the cork, what do you do next? If you're newer to wine tasting or a fan of tradition, you might feel that it's important to sniff the cork to ensure that the bottle of wine is intact and has not been over-aged. The reason someone might smell a cork is to try and determine if the bottle has been "corked" or contaminated with trichloroanisole (TCA), according to Martha Stewart

TCA is a chemical that can form in the cork and then contaminate the bottle of wine, per Wine Spectator, but it can also be found inside of oak barrels. It occurs when plant phenols come into contact with chlorine and mold. While there's no real risk to human health, TCA can spoil a bottle of wine. So can you determine all of this by simply smelling the cork?

Take a whiff of the wine itself

It was once thought to be important to smell the cork of the wine to determine how good the bottle was, but this is in fact a myth, according to Pure Wow. While TCA can cause a bottle of wine to become "corky" or "corked," sniffing the cork still doesn't really tell you if your bottle of wine is good or not. 

According to Martha Stewart, the best way to tell if your bottle of wine is still good is to smell the wine in your glass rather than focusing too much on the cork. While a smelly cork might indicate that there's some TCA present in the cork, you won't know for sure if it's contaminated the bottle until you smell and taste the wine. 

If the bottle smells like a dank basement or sour, it's likely been contaminated or has been overaged. If your wine tastes odd, it's totally okay to chat with the server or sommelier about getting something different.