No more corked wines? - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

An announcement by Portuguese company Cork Supply could mean the end of corked wines. No not the final demise of the cork stopper but the end of cork taint - a chemical reaction that occurs between poorly cleaned corks and the wine in the bottle. The result is ruined wine and a 'corked wine'.

The chemical trichloroanisole, more commonly known as TCA, results when chlorine, water and mould get into the cork wood used to make the cylindical corks used to stopper wine bottles. It is not uncommon for small amounts of mould to start growing on the sheets of uncut cork when they are left outside to mature. But this is usually washed away during the cork cleaning process. In the past the cleansing water used to have some bleach added (that's where the chlorine came from) but it was found that just exaserbated the TCA issue.

So bleach was removed from the process - well not quite. Walls, floors and winery equipment may still be washed down with a bleach solution and if the cut corks rest on any of these surfaces then there is still a chance that cork taint can happen - in about one to two percent of cases. That may not sound a lot but when that's one chance in sixty, and that one bottle is your bottle of wine then it becomes a serious issue.

The new steam distillation cork cleaning technique results in a PureCork that is said to be 99.85% free of any TCA chemicals (not 100% free, that guarantee is 'probably unrealistic'). This seems to be an improvement on an earlier method that used a mixture of steam and alcohol which had a 85% success rate.

What ever method is used to clean corks (ground up cork that is stuck back together and known as Diam corks are cleansed using carbon dioxide and are claimed to be completely free of TCA) it is a massive improvement on the situation at the turn of the twenty-first century. Then it was estimated that up to 15% of all wines were ruined due to cork taint.

The cork growing countries of Portugal and Spain have really got their act together since then and the move from cork stoppers to screwcap seems to have slowed down - data from 2016 shows that 64% of all the world's wine still uses cork, with 25% under screwcap and the remaining 11% using plastic corks.

So is this the end of that damp dog smell that indicates a corked wine? I do hope so but if you do happen to come across it then it is within your rights to ask for a refund. Bad wine is not what you paid for.

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