There is no need – and no point – in smelling the cork. Instead, you should quickly study it. If the wine has been properly stored on its side you’ll note that the end of the cork will be damp, and in the case of red wine, dark with the color of the wine. This is what you should find. If a wine is stored upright, the cork may dry out. This can lead to the cork not being removed intact or crumbling, which could mean you’ll be getting cork residue in your bottle.
If a cork has dried out, it is possible that it hasn’t given your wine the seal of protection for which it was designed. When you try your initial taste, you can determine if the wine has spoiled.
In short, when presented with the cork, give it a quick once-over. Unless it is dried out and crumbling, give a knowing nod of approval and prepare to sample your selected wine. Don’t be a “cork dork” by attempting to savor the aroma of a cork.
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