Was clearing some files off my hard drive and ran across this message, which I'd saved and which may have originally been posted to the old Wine Lover's Discussion Group. Since googling quotes from it turns up zero hits, I assume it has vanished into the Internet ether. That would be a shame, because it makes an important point about the nefarious effect of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (aka TCA), the chief cause of cork taint.
Date: 12-Oct-2004 15:11
Author: Everett Bandman
Subject: The short answer is that no one really knows......
I am a Food Scientist at University of California at Davis and the answer to your question on how humans perceive TCA and why it effects our sense of taste and smell of wines is not really understood. We did an anecdotal experiment in our "academic" tasting group where we tasted blind a stelvin finished white wine that was doctored with varying levels of TCA. One of the most interesting results was that even at subthreshold levels of TCA for individual tasters (which of course vary), the palate impression of the wine was clearly altered. The most dramatic effect was on perceived acidity. At subthreshold levels where no one could smell TCA, the wine tasted flat. If you taste clearly tainted wines, this effect is pretty clear to most. It was surprising however to see the effect in the absence of any preceived TCA. Given the prevalence of subthreshold TCA in our wines, think about how many bleh wines have been dismissed, which may simply have been slightly tainted.