I once heard a statistic that 10% of every wine bottle produced with a natural cork closure is “corked”.  1 out of every 10 bottles is destroyed by TCA (trichloroanisole), a harmless, but truly unpalatable chemical compound.

On one hand, that seems unreasonably high.  And as somebody who regularly opens 10 or more bottles at a time, I can tell you this certainly isn’t my experience.

However on the other hand, when you do get a bad bottle, TCA can be seriously disappointing.

Even worse though, is a travesty like this. A beautiful bottle of Conterno Barolo from 1996. I was so excited when I found this bottle, alone and dusty on a retailer’s shelf- all but forgotten and obscured by expensive Napa Cabernets and Australian Shiraz.  The bottle cradled its contents; pregnant and waiting patiently, silently evolving for over a decade.

I love the anticipation and the overwhelming curiosity before opening a bottle like this.  The ultimate question: What will it taste like?

However when I took my first, excited sniff, I realized immediately that TCA had struck again- rendering my beautiful Barolo completely useless. Smelling of wet cardboard, moldy vinyl camping tent, and a also a bit like nail polish, this wine was ruined.

Aromas fit only to be described by my favorite lost and lonely poet, Pablo Neruda:

“And the word scarcely begun on the lips.
This was my destiny and in it was my voyage of my longing,
and in it my longing fell, in you everything sank!”

(Pablo Neruda, a Song of Despair)

This again, is part of the fleeting mystery of wine- it is alive, and it is human.  Wine is a reflection of us: at once completely flawed, and excruciatingly beautiful.