Beginners Corner

Snooth User: Sue Christensen

Corks

Posted by Sue Christensen, Sep 16, 2012.

I love yellowtail wines but these foam corks are very hard to remove please go back to the original cork corks . Thank You Sue.

 

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Replies

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Reply by EMark, Sep 16, 2012.

Sue, producers are trying different strategies regarding closures--trying to balance economics and effectiveness.  Some consumers are adamant about the type of closures they like or dislike.  (Personally, I am pretty agnostic.)  As a suggestion to help you with your difficulty, you might look at your removal tool.  It may be that a different corkscrew may work better for you.

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Reply by napagirl68, Sep 17, 2012.

Hi Sue..

EMark is right... prollly have to look at what you are using to remove the "cork". 

It is not that wineries want to stop paying for real corks and go to synthetics or screwcaps because of laziness or cost of corks..

There is a fungus that can  live in the cork product (which is derived from a cork oak tree).  Like any other living thing, microorganisms can survive and flourish.  Cork taint is a fear among wine makers.  TCA or TBA is a compound that can form and cause a magnificent wine to taste/smell like moldy newspaper, with an "off" taste...

Unfortunately, cork taint is not the fault only of the poor cork oak, but rather a combo of modern day pesticides and processing of the cork wood.  The components that form, along with the fungus, produce an entity whose byproducts give off the nasty smell/taste. 

If you were are a winery making 100 cases of a certain wine, and you get cork taint  (keep in mind, these spores can move within cases, and next to adjacent cases stored together), you could lose a large portion of production.

I am of the belief that ~10-20% of wines (with corks of course) are corked.  But is seems to come in waves for me.  It's been awhile, fortunately....

It's a difficult issue... if one is a smaller, or family winery, it may be expensive to go with the "high end" corks.  even that is not guaranteed.  Many are going to screwcap or cork alternative.  And I am a big fan of this since I have had several GREAT wines be corked.... one lot from an amazing producer in Stags Leap District.  They replaced my case, but what a loss for them... on the order of ~$1000.00!

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Reply by outthere, Sep 17, 2012.

It's a conspiracy to get you to stray from Yellowtail and move on to fine wine. ;-)

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Reply by zufrieden, Sep 22, 2012.

This raises an interesting point (at least to me); namely, is there some cost advantage to the artificial cork over available alternatives - particularly for mass produced product?  I'm thinking, in particular, of the Stelvin (screwcap) closure which I much prefer - even with the most expensive wines.  I do not believe there is, but I am putting the question out there for clarification.

I add the assumption of a clear choice between at least four alternatives (cork oak, artificial cork, glass and screwcap) available to the winemaker...

Z.

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Reply by EMark, Sep 22, 2012.

" is there some cost advantage to the artificial cork over available alternatives"

Probably.  Although I have heard that the price of the glass closure has jumped recently.  So, I suspect that it will fade away.

Wine production is a commercial enterprise.  Consdering that Profit = Reveues - Expenses, the one thing over which that the produce has control is the Expense compopnent.  So, if you can save a few pennies on the stopper, then many producers will go in that direction--particularly, as you suggest, for the high volume producers.

The other advantage that alternative-stopper proponents have touted is the elimination of "cork taint."  Well, it is my understanding that, technically, wine bottled with non-cork stoppers can experience TCA taint.  So, maybe non-cork stoppers cannot eliminate TCA contagion completely.  Also, it appears that current procedures have substantially reduced the occurrence of TCA in natural corks.

I think I am on the same page with you on screw caps.  They are, easily, the most convenient.  There is some concern about the plastic sealant on the inside of the caps passing foreign flavors to the wine.  I can't say thay I have experienced it, and some contend that the easy way of avoiding that problem is to store the wine with the tops pointing up.  The Stelvins, however, do seem to raise emotions.  On another board I have read the postings of a vineyard owner/winemaker who argues adamantly against them."

All in all, I am pretty agnostic about the stopper in my wne.

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Reply by napagirl68, Sep 23, 2012.

The other advantage that alternative-stopper proponents have touted is the elimination of "cork taint."  Well, it is my understanding that, technically, wine bottled with non-cork stoppers can experience TCA taint.  So, maybe non-cork stoppers cannot eliminate TCA contagion completely.  Also, it appears that current procedures have substantially reduced the occurrence of TCA in natural corks.

While it is theoretically possible to experience TCA without a cork present, it is highly unlikely.   A few years back, I contacted one of the TCA research experts, formerly at UC Davis.  I have an old thread here... If I can find it, I will add it here.  Anyway, he said that the cork is to blame the vast majority of the time.  He is also a proponent of alternative closures for that reason.
 
One of the main reasons more wineries don't go to alternative closures is cork snobbery.... Many, many consumers think that a wine without a cork is a substandard wine, and will choose not to buy.  That mindset is SLOWLY changing.
 
for the record, I have easily opened over 2000 wines in my life, and NEVER have I had a TCA tainted wine that didn't have a cork closure.  Of wines with cork closures, I would say that ~10% have been corked overall, but it comes in waves.  Yes, buying corks from reputable sellers, spending more can help toward alleviating the problem of corked wine.   But it is not foolproof.
 
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Reply by gregt, Sep 23, 2012.

Yeah - cork is to blame most of the time.  The cork people deny it, but it's still the fact.  However, as mentioned, it's most of the time, not virtually 100 of the time.  I've had "corked" wine that came with a plastic cork.  You can find TCA in barrels, pallets, and other wood materials - remember cork is wood. And when they used to clean wineries with bleach, that was a way to generate additional TCA, which is why most places don't use bleach any more.

But as mentioned, it's usually the cork - I think I've had 2 wines ever that were "corked" and that didn't have "real" corks, and since that winery also used "real" corks, who knows where the contamination really came from. 

Zuf - as far as the cost goes, it depends on the quality of cork you want. You can pay like thirty to fifty cents and get a cheap stopper - a short synthetic cork or an agglomerated cork. You can get a cheap natural cork for around the same price.  But then you can pay for a longer, higher-quality cork and maybe have your name stamped on the side and you'll pay a buck or two or even more.  If you get your corks tested, that will have to figure in - some high-end wineries send random samples of their corks for testing and if the lab finds any problem, they reject the entire lot. You can do that on the cheap yourself by floating a few handfuls of randomly selected corks in water or some cheap wine for a day or so and rejecting a lot if you smell anything off.

For screwcaps you have to modify the bottle and the bottling line, so there's a big upfront investment to be made that you'll have to amortize. Stelvins are around 20 cents or so, if you buy like 100,000 at a time. If you buy less, they'll be a bit more, and you'll also pay for having your name printed. And you can select the type of liner in the capsule.

The glass closure is to me the most elegant, but it's the least used.

To me the choice should be between cork and metal or glass - plastic corks are probably the worst in all respects.  For one thing, if you have a teflon cork screw, they'll strip the teflon off pretty fast. More importantly, they don't compress as much as cork does and consequently they never seal quite as tightly.

The main downside of metal is that in theory, if you bump the bottle pretty hard, you can dent the metal and compromise the seal. I've never experienced that personally however. As far as I'm concerned, metal is the way to go for all wines, but people like their traditions and they feel that it's somehow more romantic and proper to randomly introduce the possibility of complete destruction of the product.  Eventually maybe they'll learn.

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Reply by EMark, Sep 23, 2012.

GegT, are you familiar with the nomenclature "technical cork?"  I thought it was the same thing as an agglomerated cork, but, while I have not been able to understand the difference (language issue, though, admittedly, his English is better than my Spanish), apparently, they are not synonyms.

This is a link to a short Reuters article on the Spanish Cork Industry, its up-and-down battle with alternatives and its attempts to improve quality.  I don't know that it is conclusive, but I thought it was interesting.

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Reply by outthere, Sep 23, 2012.

@ NG, 1 of 10 wines you open is corked? Holy carp! Looking back at my notes I'm getting 1 in every 65 bottles.

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Reply by gregt, Sep 23, 2012.

emark - "technical cork" is just another "manufactured" cork. I guess they all are, but while the cork you know and love is punched from a slab of bark, there's a lot of leftover material and that gets ground up and made into a cheaper kind of cork - a "technical" one. Sometimes they put a disk of "real" cork at each end so the wine and your corkscrew come into contact with what looks like a "real" cork. All in all it's probably not a bad deal.

One thing that's interesting is that I haven't seen any suggestion by the cork industry that the wine will "breathe" thru the cork over the years. Good for them for not trying to sell that line.

outthere - depending on what you're drinking, if you have a lot of stuff from the 90s, I think NG is right. There was a ramp-up in production as wineries opened worldwide at a fast pace and people weren't really paying attention to TCA until they started opening the wines. Big wineries - Vega Sicilia, Pesquera, Beaulieau Vineyards, Montelena and many others around the world found that they had TCA problems and they spent millions of dollars cleaning their wineries. 

More recently I'm seeing a marked decrease in corked wine, but whenever I open a bottle from before 2000, I always dread what I might find.

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Reply by Mike Madaio, Sep 23, 2012.

 It cracks me up that you guys can take these ridiculous n00b comments and turn them into actual topics.

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Reply by JonDerry, Sep 23, 2012.

 It cracks me up that you guys can take these ridiculous n00b comments and turn them into actual topics.

I think it's kind of a function of people logging in and then not wanting to leave without saying something, it turns out being a nice and healthy thing.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 24, 2012.

YEs, Emark is thinking, "Gee, this person might be back to look and see if there's an answer," and then it goes from there.  And we see the heading and think, "Hmm, what's that about? Emark answered it.  Wonder what he said."  It's like a day in the Hundred Acre Wood, with Pooh and Piglet looking in on Rabbit.

Anyway, I treat the Noob questions with respect because we were all Noobs once.  And the more people who actually use this place, the better the perks when some region or manufacturer wants to do a VT. 

Now, back to the topic:  GregT, I understood that Montelena in particular had an issue with brett, but was cork taint endemic there?  Somehow, I missed that.  NG is really sensitive to TCA, as we all know, and some of us just probably are too big of slobs to know.  I've definitely had a handful of truly corked wines, but probably not much more than that.  (NG, that number --2000 in your lifetime--has to be low.  I chided GregT for his 250 bottles a year, but, really, it's not that crazy, especially if you entertain, as I know you do. 

I also had very little idea how much of the cost of a bottle of wine was in the cork.  After all, the cost at the cellar door (to the distributor) is often as low as $3-4 dollars for a wine that sells for 4x that (or more), so a buck a cork is huge.

True story:  First time I got a bottle with a glass cork, I didn't see what it was--just the paper label on top.  Could not figure out why my corkscrew would not penetrate it.  Sheesh.

Okay, why not a crown cap?  Super cheap.  Just invent some improved version of it.

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Reply by gregt, Sep 24, 2012.

Some wineries do crown cap. Those often still have a disk of cork underneath, although sometimes the metal is coated with a plastic instead.

http://www.hitimewine.net/BERGER-10-GRUNER-VELTLINER-1LT.html

Yeah - Montelena was one of the "infamous" wineries that got  low points for their wine because it had TCA. He gave the BV GdL 69 points in 2001.

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Montelena-joins-the-list-of-tainted-wineries-2726938.php

As far as this one: "It cracks me up that you guys can take these ridiculous n00b comments and turn them into actual topics."

It is true I guess, and sometimes hard to tell whether those kinds of posts are legit or just trolls. Especially if the OP never returns. But who knows - maybe she was genuine and likes Yellowtail!  That's kind of curious in itself!

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Reply by outthere, Sep 24, 2012.

 outthere - depending on what you're drinking, if you have a lot of stuff from the 90s, I think NG is right. There was a ramp-up in production as wineries opened worldwide at a fast pace and people weren't really paying attention to TCA until they started opening the wines.

Good point. Of my corked bottles one was an 84 Rubicon Estate Niebaum Coppola Rubicon and the other a 94 Forman Cab.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 24, 2012.

D'oh! How could I forget the Berger! I just saw it sitting on the shelf at a wine store the other day!  I've bought a handful of them, although the last few bottles have been the Biohof Pratsch. 

Interestingly, Montelena embraces brett, according to this post on their blog. We drank a bottle of their 2001 Estate for our 10th anniversary last year, and it was perfectly tasty, no hint of TCA. 

Liking Yellowtail ain't that curious except here.  But that's kind of the point:  You start with Yellowtail, pretty soon you'll be pairing Riesling with hamachi.  (A little sushi humor.)

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Reply by JonDerry, Sep 24, 2012.

A few years back, my apt roommate got an opportunity to run a winery in Temecula. He was all excited about it but when he got there he found the whole thing was a complete mess and he ran for the hills.

Anyway, while he was there he did look at the costs and he found the bottle/label/+ cork costs to be about $1 total. Probably not for the top-notch corks, but it gives a good idea.

Charles Shaw also gives us an idea of the absolute cheapest possible bottle/label/cork costs. Figure they'd need to get that down to about $0.40-50 if they were selling at around $1 filled to places like Trader Joe's, but who knows, maybe they have a 60/40 deal with Trader Joe's, and of course now I believe the price is up to a whopping $2.49 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 24, 2012.

Well, then they have competition at the low end.  And it's under a cork, too. I can occasionally find some off-beat thing that goes for $4 because the winery/distributor is willing to all but give it away to get rid of inventory, or the juice is filling a tank that someone needs to use.  But this means the wine under cork at $2 is worth less than the bottle and the cork holding it in.  Think about that.  Like buying a $500 safe to store a benjamin or two in. 

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Reply by napagirl68, Sep 24, 2012.

@ NG, 1 of 10 wines you open is corked? Holy carp! Looking back at my notes I'm getting 1 in every 65 bottles.

Outthere... I quote that number as OVERALL in my wine drinking experience :-).   I seem to go through phases where I will get 3-4 corked wines in a month.  Then nothing for a stretch.  In posts going back from a few years ago, I said something like 20%!  Because I seemed to be opening a lot of corked wine at that time.  Also, cork taint can spread in a case... If I buy 3 cases of a wine I love, and one or two is corked, if I can, I return the wine.  But in some cases, I have bought at discount and cannot return.  Therefore, my numbers go up.

Also remember that some are supertasters of TCA taint.... I am one of them.   my UCDavis scientist expert quoted a higher number than 10%, and spoke of supertasters. He was one of those, and could taste very low concentrations that many would miss.  Wine with low concentration of TCA taint can slide by many.  Of course the nuances of perception of taste can change over time for an individual.  Age, health, diet, hormones, stress... they all play into how we taste things. 

Really, it's a statistics thing... like playing solitaire and having the computer keep your win odds.  At first  the odds will be very low or very high... then level out.  Then, over even hundreds of games, can drop way down for awhile, or go up.  It is an average over time. (and no, I don't play solitaire all day long :-)

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Reply by gregt, Sep 25, 2012.

http://www.corkfacts.com/technicalpapersandarticles/T1Sefton%20taint%20review.pdf

For those of you who want to read an article w/out paying the subscription fee. 

Unlike NG and her friends, some of us want to get information into the hands of the people! Long live the revolution!

More to the point - TCA isn't the only problem with wine. And if there's a problem in the winery, it can be tragic. I know winery owners who were in denial, but you could detect a problem in the wine. Sometimes it's extremely subtle, like a mustiness you only detect as a retronasal effect, but once you notice it, it's awful. And I don't consider myself particularly sensitive or  perceptive, or even particularly bent on finding flaws in life. 

Hell, people like NG think I enjoy crickets!

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