Cork Closures - End of an Era
From our Spring 2011 Newsletter The Tin Shed. The move away from cork closures is now just about complete in the "New World" of wine making:
I have recently decided to stop buying wine that is sealed with a cork. I’m frustrated with the amount of corked wine I come across. The wine has been tainted by TCA (2,4,6 richloroanisole) and it robs the wine of its fruit, leaving it tasting flat and smelling of musty, mouldy cellars. TCA, which is harmless, gets into the cork through poor storage after it is harvested from the tree. If it is allowed to get wet, a fungus grows in the cork and produces TCA. Up until recently it could not be removed and it is difficult to detect unless you test every cork and who is going to do that.
An alternative cork closure - the diam cork - is TCA free, having been ground up and subjected to super critical CO2 which extracts the TCA, and then reconstructed. However, unless you are a regular buyer of the same wine, you don’t know if a diam cork is being used until you get the bottle home and open it.
I had gotten into the habit of buying two bottles if it had a cork, thinking that if one is corked I’d have another chance with the second bottle, but this has proved fallible as both bottles from my latest purchase were corked. So no more cork. Ah, but the romance of popping the cork I hear you say – and I say times change.
We have been drinking wine for thousands of years, but cork has only been widely used for the last four hundred years. Before that it was a bit of leather or cloth, before that a bit of wood with wax and before that a layer of oil. Cork is just one step in the progression of closures used to preserve and protect wine. The favourite is now the screwcap and this will probably be superseded down the track, but for the moment it is a better seal than cork. It has a lot going for it - there is little or no bottle variation so the wine is more consistent, the seal is more airtight so flavours are better preserved, the wine still ages, the risk of taints is virtually nil and there is no need to carry ‘round a corkscrew.
I have to say I don’t come across the problem so much with sparkling wine, I think a bit of TCA might add to the yeasty character of some sparkling wines and so is more acceptable, but I’ll have to consider that one a bit more, no doubt when I next have a glass or two.