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Don’t sniff your wine cork unless you want to look snooty

Flickr user Bridget Coila

Some restaurants have continued a puzzling tradition when it comes to serving wine. You order a bottle and when they bring it to the table they provide you with the cork as well.

Chief wine and restaurant critic for Hour Detroit Magazine Chris Cook says there's a long history to this tradition.

According to Cook, the tradition started in 1800's France when wine fraud was prevalent. Unscrupulous people were attaching high-quality wine labels to low-quality product. In order to combat this, wineries began marking their corks, and restaurants would present the cork to customers to verify the bottles' authenticity.

Today, Cook says there's very little information for customers to gain from the cork.

If the cork feels brittle, you may be able to tell that the bottle has been stored upright for a longer period of time, but Cook indicates that's a minor factor to keep in mind when tasting the wine.

While "cork taint," which can lead to harsh smells or tastes, is a common problem, Cook says the name is deceiving and the fault will be undetectable from only the cork. Instead, Cook says smelling the glass is what will truly determine whether the bottle is bad.  

"The ceremonial part doesn't really represent much today in terms of its purpose when it was started," Cook says, but it has become a myth and "this kind of snootiness that wound up in restaurant tradition."

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