By Frankie Zhao
The thing with corked wine in that Chinese consumers often don’t know it when they taste it.
I have attended big tastings, approached a table, realized the wine being served is corked, and seen only an inch of wine left in the bottle. This means a dozen or more people have already tried this faulty wine and yet it continues to be poured.
Another example: I once showed up late at a dinner and found people raving about a bottle of Chateau Lafite they were drinking. I took one sip and realized the wine was corked. I remained silent since they were enjoying the wine, but it reminded me again that many people do notice when wine is corked.
Some research finds people are much better at identifying a wine as very acidic or tannic than as corked. I have done work with Professor Ma Huiqin at China Agricultural University where we gave students faulty wines, including corked ones. We found that the wine characteristic they most easily identified was its weight or body. They also easily identified acidity. But, when it came to corked wine, it usually passed by their noses and tongues unnoticed.
Thus, in discussions of corks, screw tops, and so on in China, we need to realize that many consumers have little experience of what wine should taste like and, even if they noticed a wine is corked, they won’t necessarily identify it as a fault.