I have, as I was diligently taught, always avoiding smelling the cork upon opening the bottle. I have however, run across several Sommeliers, whom I respect, who do smell the cork as part of their table service.
As I currently work with a Sommelier who does this, I thought I'd open my mind a bit and give it a whirl during service. As I have always been taught that this is a hug no no, it seemed odd at first, however it was nice to head off a few bottles that were corked before they were served to the guest to taste. Personally, I still prefer to secretly take a whiff of the wine before pouring a taster for the guest.
I have also noticed however, that I have come across several corks that smelled of TCA, yet the wine did not appear to be affected. To verify this, I set the bottles in the cellar to see if the TCA levels increased, which they did not. This was an especially useful test when tried on a bottle of Tokaji. Still no sign of TCA after one month, yet the cork reeked of it.
So, the question. Do you smell the cork as a part of service, or do you not? Will you be docked for this at the Master level exam? I'd especially like to get some feedback from the Master's themselves.
I only smell it if, after smelling the wine, I get a hint of what could be TCA or other fault (if the wine is clearly faulty, I won't bother)... Even so, as you said - just because the cork reeks doesn't mean there is anything wrong with the wine. It doesn't always help, but it can be another clue... but most of the time it just smells like a cork. As for doing it in the exam, it's not taught at any level.
I guess my main issue, is that it is scored positively in some competitions. The ISG program requires it, as does the ASA Best Sommelier competition. Of course, they also season the decanter before decanting. Any reason why the Court has not adopted these techniques?
Brandon- here's an old discussion on seasoning glassware: www.guildsomm.com/.../5362.aspx