He provided another bottle for me to taste, and I discovered that he was quite right: The first bottle had indeed been tainted. In retrospect, I should perhaps have realized that notes of “aged cheddar” were not meant to appear in the nose.
I so rarely encounter a corked bottle that it hadn’t even occured to me at the time. Cork taint, according to Wikipedia, occurs in only 1.5% to 7% of bottles, depending on whether you trust the cork industry or Wine Spectator. (The cork industry is at pains to point out that “cork taint” can also be caused by affected barrels.)
While I certainly didn’t dislike the first bottle of Belje Welschriesling, this uncorked second bottle tasted much better. Instead of aged cheddar on the nose (or urine, as my friend smelled), I sensed sweet apples, vanilla and pineapple. The food-friendly acidity and minerality remained, but the fruit was more pronounced. The “unripe apples” of the corked bottle ripened into full-blown pink ladies. With a light risotto, additional flavors of pear and white pepper came to the fore.
It’s because of rare moments like this that the sommelier asks you to test the wine before he or she pours it for the table. If you smell something like mold, wet newspapers, canned mushrooms or (as in this case) aged cheese, trust your nose and alert the wine steward. He or she should (theoretically) gladly bring you a replacement bottle.
In the meantime, don’t hesitate to try out the decidedly not cheddary 2009 Belje Welschriesling.
2009 Belje Welschriesling: Flavors of ripe apples, pineapples, pears and white pepper. Food-friendly acidity. Chill in the refrigerator, but take it out 10-15 minutes before serving.
Price: Approximately $15.00
Full disclosure: This wine was offered as a complimentary sample by Tasty Wine Company.