Cork maligned

This entry starts with an apology to the cork industry and to readers of this blog—oh, what the hell, I apologize to everyone I have ever met who had to listen to me go on and on over the subject of cork taint.

~In the June, 2007 issue of the trade journal, Wines and Vines Magazine, Tim Patterson has an article about TCA that is the cause of my apology and this blog entry.
~In his article, Patterson explains that the conversation about so-called cork taint is itself tainted—with misinformation.
~Now don’t get me wrong. Most of the information we have about TCA taint is not purposely put out to get at the cork industry (well, maybe some of it is, especially from those who have an interest in promoting synthetic stoppers and screwcaps).
~Most of the information we have about TCA has been slow to materialize, and even slower to get at the truth, because those studying it just didn’t know all the answers.
~The answers have been coming in. I already knew that TCA can infect not only corks but every porous material—especially wood and cardboard—that is used in and around wine production, and once a wine facility is infected, TCA will permeate the place and ultimately ruin the wines. But there’s a lot I didn’t know.
~I don’t want to give away the meat of Patterson’s article, the link below will get you to it, but I do want to say that he lays out what’s been going on in California regarding TCA and you have to expect that if it’s happening there it’s happening in every wine region.
~Just the other day I opened a Southern Italian Rosato (a light red wine for summer) that had been ruined by TCA taint. Of course, I had the retailer replace the bottle. But the second one was not exactly right either, yet it was not as bad as the first one.
~Maybe after reading Patterson’s article I had been influenced by some of the information he imparts about TCA detection in our noses: some of us are better than others at picking up the taint at low doses. I know I am sensitive to the taint, but I have no idea whether or not my sensitivity to it is as acute as, say, the wine critic James Laube, who seems to be able to smell the stuff from a continent away!
~In any event, I am now thinking differently about the cork.

Being a porous wood product, the cork still can become TCA infected, so I am not completely convinced that we should abandon the move toward finding a better closure for wine bottles. Any closure that keeps my wine clean and as pristine as the day it was bottled should definitely be used for wine, and studies to find that material should continue.

I particularly dislike the plastic stoppers. While they may never be TCA tainted, they come with a few serious flaws, not the least of which is how they may or may not seal tight, and then how they may or may not want to even come out of the bottle neck when coaxed by a corkscrew (I recently broke a corkscrew trying to pry a recalcitrant plastic stopper out). I would never miss them should the plastic stoppers leave this universe.

The screwcap may be the best closure thus far, but it has yet to prove definitive, and some of them aren’t so easily twisted off either. I recently had one that refused to budge until I took a pliers to it, which of course bent the thing and rendered it useless for recapping the bottle, should I ever have the need to do such a thing.

~In any event, while the verdict is not in over which closure wins, it’s clear that the cork may have been overly maligned, at least regarding TCA taint. For whatever part I played in that indictment, I again apologize. In defense, I can say that I am not the only one who didn’t have all the facts. So, check out the link to Patterson.

T’aint so:

Copyright by Thomas Pellechia
June, 2007. All Rights Reserverd.

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