Wine Talk

Snooth User: Nancy Hawks Miller

Is Cork Taint on the Decline?

Posted by Nancy Hawks Miller, Feb 14, 2011.

One topic leads to another! How many of you think cork taint is less common than it was a few years ago? I think things have gotten better and I know of at least one cork broker who has a method of purging the TCA out of the corks before delivery. Plus, they work with a very sophisticated wine lab and the QC is much better. What do you think?

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Replies

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 14, 2011.

One wold hope that the cork industry understands that we consumers want it eliminated and that there is no excuse for producing a product that impacts another product for human consumption negatively.

They have only gotten away with this disgraceful level of poor product quality because we consumers did not understand that it was cork that caused the problem.

Given that the cork's ultimate future will be in expensive wine then they need to get the issue totally eliminated to be acceptable to consumers as a whole.

Frankly at the moment I only but a wine under cork if the wine is one I really want to have in my cellar. 

I am sceptical about cork broker claims, but I am an auditor and being sceptical is a job requirement!!!!!

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Reply by Nancy Hawks Miller, Feb 15, 2011.

I know what you're saying. The other day I was annoyed because the bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc I wanted to open had a cork in it! HOW INCONVENIENT TO GET OUT A CORK SCREW!!! ;-)

But, my perception is that there are fewer corked wines now than there were a few years ago. Hopefully things are headed in the right direction!

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Reply by JonDerry, Feb 15, 2011.

Yes, you'd think they'd have to be improving - especially with screw caps becoming more prevalent.

Still hard to imagine a future of Bordeaux, Napa, and high end Italian wines switching to screw caps though.

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Reply by Nancy Hawks Miller, Feb 15, 2011.

Yeah, there's the long-term aging issue, not to mention the aesthetics... Just read about a new sort of liner for screw caps that's supposed to come the closest to the breathability of a cork: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/VinPerfect-Debuts-bw-1392182051.html?x=0 

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Reply by Andrew46, Feb 16, 2011.

We see a clear drop in cork taint in our wines.  In our whites we us a composite cork that has a thin layer of solid cork on each end.  Since we started using them, I don't think I have seen a single bottle.  I am told that this can vary with the supplier, but it seems that ours is doing well.

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Reply by gregt, Feb 16, 2011.

All reputable producers and suppliers are working to reduce cork taint and Portugal has spent millions of euros on the issue.  There are probably dozens of proffered methods to "purge" cork taint and many wineries test their corks before use as well.

So yes, there are fewer "corked" bottles although of course, cork is not the only source of TCA and if you drink enough wine, you'll find tainted bottles that have plastic or metal closures. 

And many producers are also working with other closures as well, as they should be. Not to start yet one more thread on cork vs anything else.

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Reply by JonDerry, Feb 16, 2011.

Exactly Greg...for what it's worth, i'm liking this thread a lot better than the last one.

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Reply by jamessulis, Feb 16, 2011.

I personally have never encountered cork taint.  I've opened many bottles of wine in my lifetime and never did it happen to me.  I suppose if and when it does, I will jump on the train that leads to screw tops.  Some of the wine I purchase has screw tops and I feel a little disappointed that there is no cork.  I don't know why but can probably guess that wine always had cork and I like the gymnastics of popping the cork as well as using a wine aeroater and also extracting the air out of an unfinished bottle.  Us humans are people of great nostalgia and sometimes not willing to be subjects to change.

Lefty - The Great Pacific Northwest

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Feb 16, 2011.

With some reports of TCA as high as 1 bottle per 12, I'd be surprised if none of the bottles you've opened were tainted.  Being able to detect it is a whole other story.

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Reply by Nancy Hawks Miller, Feb 16, 2011.

Count yourself very fortunate not to haved encountered cork taint! The frustrating thing is when the TCA is at low levels it just dulls the fruit - you don't necessarily know that it's cork taint. Higher levels of TCA are truly offensive! As Greg said, TCA doesn't just come from corks, although they're the main source. Any wood container can impart TCA. As we were discussing in another conversation thread, carrots can be "corked". I had some blueberries with TCA a few days ago - yuck!

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 16, 2011.

James

You must be the luckiest wine drinker on planet earth.  I would say that I am still getting 5-10% tainted wines.  Cork taint comes in varying degrees of impact.

I am reasonable at detection but my wifes sister is a cork taint nazi and can pick it in minute quantities.

Overall it is important that forums like this continue to push the taint issue so that cork suppliers continue to refine their processes.

Historically we consumers were ignored by the wine industry and the cork supply industry.  So lets not let up on things we think are important.

GregT makes some very important observations and quite often we will open a bottle of wine and it is spoiled due to other reasons - not to mention poor winemaking! 

To be honest I really do not care what is used to seal a wine bottle providing it works and it does not contain some fundemental flaw that leads to an unacceptable level of spoilage of the product I have purchased

PS - Lefty you should buy a lottery ticket!

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Reply by hhotdog, Feb 16, 2011.

gotta say it's been a bit since i have brought back a bottle?  damn...i'm really over do here!  i have been on some screw cappers recently...perhaps that has kept the numbers down? 

SH - i've already bought my lottery tickets!

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Reply by jamessulis, Feb 17, 2011.

Stephen,  I guess that I've been lucky, I haven't even detected a slight occurrance of any problems with the wines I've purchased. My olfactory proclivities are very observant.  If it does occur.........return the product and hope the replacement is not of the same disposition. Maybe I should buy into the Lottery.

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Reply by Andrew46, Feb 17, 2011.

"With some reports of TCA as high as 1 bottle per 12, I'd be surprised if none of the bottles you've opened were tainted.  Being able to detect it is a whole other story."

I am specifically speaking of our white wines made at our winery.  We drink a bottle most days.  Sometimes 2-3.  My stepfather, our winemaker, Joe Collins is a two time Individual Grand Champion of the CA Tasting Competition.  I was raised at a winery.  I am pretty sure we can spot TCA as well as most people can.  Overall rates in the industry may remain high, but I doubt that.  Reputable cork producers are doing a good job of limiting taint.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 18, 2011.

JonDerry doesn't want to go there, but I do!  Stelvins have just one disadvantage, IMO:  Leaving the metal ring on the neck--it's unsightly.  I know it's covered elsewhere, but I don't think cork's breathability is actually a good thing. 

Is cork taint on the decline?  I would only trust a system using gas analyzers (what a waste of wine!) or the extremely sensitive taste of NapaGirl, who actually could test the wine in her lab to confirm her results.  The problem in measuring the prevalence is that people have wide variability in detecting TCA--if you're sensitive, micro levels will offend you where others would not notice at all.  I imagine it's genetic, although you would need to have tasted things with TCA to recognize it, of course.  Many people are genetically wired to find cilantro and green peppers, among other things, kind of soapy tasting.  It also comes in degrees, so cilantro offends me, but the taste in peppers is usually below my detection (drowned out by the other things).  I haven't had much wine that I would consider corked, but I may be lucky in that I don't sense it at low levels, while still sensing the things I do like.  Just human variation.  Some folks may also be tasting things that aren't TCA and lumping them together because they aren't familiar with the taste of TCA.  The wine could be off in other ways, or unappealing to them.  Heaven knows there are almost as many ways for wine to be bad as good--and good wine can easily be made bad by oxidation (those breathable, shrinkable, drying-out corks!), heat damage, and a few other things that we hope don't happen, like occasional contamination in processing. 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 18, 2011.

I think some people feel that if they aren't sensitive to detecting TCA, they must not have a very good palate, also. There's probably a small group of people that attribute bad experiences with wine--any barnyardy smell, brett, whatever, to cork taint.  I'm still hoping that improved stelvins are going to take over.  I think they are already very close to ideal.

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Reply by hhotdog, Feb 18, 2011.

hmmm... be it "romantic"  or just "familiar" cork seems to have it's place...or not?  i have always thought that the slow introduction of air to the wine creates the "ageworthyness" to a fine wine. whether it be an great italian or bordeaux?  isn't the cork that creates this enviroment?  i buy many screw cappers (as i call them?) and have yet to hold onto any of them for aging.   will there be a stelvin to create the aging process of the cork?  recently my aussie screwcappers have not failed me yet and cudos to the assies for their alternatives for closures.

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Reply by jamessulis, Feb 19, 2011.

While screwtops seem to be the solution to cork taint, very few wines support this system. If cork taint is present, detction is utmost, be aware that when you uncork it may exist.  Make it a part of your wine analysis, know that it exists and hunt for the slightest part of the wine that is unpleasant to you.  Deal with it and move on, because the next bottle may be within the realm of what wine is supposed to be.  In you hunt for your excellent wine, be aware, be prepared and be forgiving.  Wine is a wonderful thing to behold and to experience with the palate be it good or bad.  Here's hoping you don't get to experience cork taint and relish in the perfection of your choice.

Lefty - The Great Pacific Norwhwest

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Reply by jazzmunkee, Feb 19, 2011.

I just had this happen to me with a bottle of greg Norman Cabernet but I didn't know what it was.  I just knew it smelled like crap.  I'm glad I came accross this thread.  Thanks.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 20, 2011.

hhotdog:  there was a prior discussion on the effects of corks on aging in another thread on screw caps, but maybe the issue remains unsettled: http://www.snooth.com/talk/topic/screw-caps-vs-cork/3/ 

The lack of predictability of oxidation if cork really breathes like that suggests that aging wine in cork is just a huge gamble.  Frankly, I thought the advantage to cork was that it maintained a good seal even as temps varied because the cork was somewhat elastic. 

Wine is full of stuff that is the result of history, not logic.  We mostly don't put wax over the corks, but that's probably how it was in the beginning.  But we haven't gotten rid of the cork in spite of its obvious problems and unverified advantages.  In 1855, when the Medoc was classified, there were no screw-on caps.  In a twist (sorry for the pun) of fate, that would happen the next year, according to this: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/When_was_the_year_bottle_caps_invented

Note the tongue in cheek comment at the end.

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