Here at Enoteca we take a huge amount of pride in our wine list, and we really want our guests to enjoy their wine too.
For all of our cork (as opposed to screw cap) wines, we invite you taste them. This is mainly to ensure the wine isn’t corked (which means the wine has soured due to excessive contact with oxygen - i.e. the cork has failed at sealing the bottle).
So what is it you’re supposed to be detecting in this somewhat mysterious ritual that no one ever teaches us but we are somehow expected to know?
All wine will have a degree of acidity to them. This is what gives wine its pleasing edge or sharpness. You can test the amount of acidity in a wine by taking a sip, sloshing it around your tongue for a couple of seconds, swallowing and then opening your mouth while tilting your head forwards. Acidic wines will create a rush of saliva to the front of your mouth (be wary of the risk of dribbling here - best to do this in private!) Less acidic wines will generate much less saliva.
Before tasting, do two things to help you detect a bad wine. Firstly, and you’ve probably seen lots of wine experts do this, swirl the wine around the glass for a couple of seconds. That brings in some oxygen into the wine to help ‘open’ it - by which we mean some aromas and flavours will become more noticeable. So I know you’re thinking “but - oxygen. You told us three paragraphs oxygen corks a wine!” Yes, kind of. A little oxygen exposure for up to a couple go hours before drinking is your friend, for the reasons just stated. However its prolonged or excessive contact with oxygen that sours the wine. Secondly, take a good sniff of the wine - the nose is remarkably good at detecting off-flavours so if it smells bad, it almost certainly is. Now it is time to taste.
So, an uncorked wine will have a pleasing acidity to it that works with the other flavours and characteristics. However, a corked wine will basically taste like it is well on its way to being vinegar. If the wine has a dominant, vinegary, musty flavour then you’ve got a corked wine. Don’t worry about whether you can spot this - it is absolutely unmistakeable and makes for something completely undrinkable.
If this happens to you (and its rare these days - we have had one genuinely corked bottle in the several hundred we have opened at Enoteca), or even if you’re not sure, don’t worry. Just let the waiter know - they may take a fresh glass and test it for themselves. If they’re also sure its corked they will immediately bring you a fresh bottle. No fuss, no bother.