The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole
Also known as "TCA" aka "Cork Taint" or just plain ol' "Corked."
TCA is a chemical compound that is a chlorinated derivative of anisole. Trichloroanisole is a fungal metabolite "2,4,6-trichlorophenol," which is used as a fungicide. It can be found in minute traces on packaging materials stored in the presence of fiberboard treated with trichlorophenol.
Got all that? Of course you do! So how does it apply to wine? And no - - a "corked" bottle of wine does not mean there are little pieces of cork floating around in it.
"Cork Taint" is a broad term referring to a wine fault. It’s a harmless compound that gives wine a musty aroma and flavor at various degrees. Merely looking at cork will usually not tell you much, as it is all in the smell of the cork and the wine. While the human threshold for detecting TCA is measured in the single-digit parts per trillion, TCA can vary by several degrees depending on an individual's sensitivity. Meaning some of us with sensitive sinuses (and bigger foreheads) can detect it at lower degrees than usual.
Corked wine has a characteristic odor, variously described as resembling a moldy newspaper, wet dog, damp cloth, damp basement, or what I like to use an example, "Boise Cascade Paper Mill at Wallula" (30-miles from Walla Walla). Stinky!
While TCA does come from cork, it also comes from other sources such as contaminated winery or bottling equipment, airborne molds or chlorine-based compounds (toilet paper, paper towels, wine case boxes, wood pallets) in wineries and cellars. Smell a cardboard shipping box and you will get a clue of the aroma to be looking for. In fact, I once noticed TCA in a simple glass of water. What we later discovered was a water filter had just been replaced by a brand new white cardboard filter.