Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Corked. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Corked. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cork Taint in a Screwcap?

In my last post, I wrote about the difference between corks and screwcaps, about how the latter has significantly circumvented the problem of cork taint. Then the unexpected happened to me - I got a screwcapped wine that was corked!

One of these was corked
It was a gorgeous summer afternoon in Portland, and I was thrilled to find a new wine bar and bottle shop to try. We sat down at the patio, and I ordered a flight of three mid-range Oregon Pinot Noirs. I swirled the glass of the first wine, took a whiff, and immediately got that faint but unmistaken smell of wet cardboard. I took a sip, which confirmed that off-putting taste devoid of fruit and flavor. I tasted the other two glasses, and they were fine.

I took the corked wine back to the shop and waited patiently for the shopkeeper to finish his conversation with another customer. Then I told him discreetly that the wine was corked. He took it back and came out to the patio with a new bottle and a new glass. He twisted the screwcap off the bottle to pour me a new glass and said, "That wine was fine, but here's one from a newly opened bottle."

Now, I have up to now experienced only half a dozen corked bottles. While it was not a common occurrence to get a corked wine these days, the last three happened in the past year so I am unfortunately quite familiar with the smell and taste of a corked wine; the earlier two being a Brunello and a California Super Tuscan-style red. I have even tried the Saran wrap trick to remove the taint, which, I am sad to report, does not work.

I digress. Now how does a screwcapped wine get corked?

I mentioned in my last post that the main cause of cork taint is TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), a compound that leads to a musty fungal or wet cardboard aroma.  TCA belongs to a family of volatile compounds called haloanisoles, that cause moldy aroma. There are other compounds (TBA, TeCA, and PCA) that may be responsible for the taint.

Haloanisoles may be transferred to the wine from contaminated materials in the winemaking facility, such as tank coatings, hoses, barrels, and oak chips. It can also be transferred to the polyethylene film, which is commonly used as a liner for screwcaps. So while opting for a screwcap over cork will significantly reduce the chance of cork taint, it does not eliminate it. In my limited sample size, it is one to five.

Here's another interesting factoid - the sensory thresholds of different tasters for haloanisoles may vary as well. So one taster can be highly sensitive to it while another may not find it quite as objectionable. A well-known sommelier once discovered that a rare and expensive bottle ordered at his restaurant was corked. Despite his offer and attempt to replace it with a different bottle, the diners claimed that not only was the wine fine, but it was delicious. At which point, he had to back off against his professional judgement.

My Verdict: Regardless of the closure used, if you believe that your wine is corked, trust your taste and take the wine back. Even if the wine merchant disagrees with you, he or she will likely still replace your wine. It is better than to be stuck with an off-putting wine.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Fourteen Wine Hacks or a Wack? Part One

Every now and then, I come across new wine hacks. Some are great ideas that I’ve added to my wine bag of tricks. Others may raise an eyebrow or even inspire a groan. Recently, CNN published an article about 14 Practical Wine Hacks that Are Here to Save the Day. (I counted only thirteen by the way.) Apparently, these hacks were tested to work. Here is my review on the first seven “hacks,” and I will cover the rest in my next post.

1. Chill a bottle on the fly by wrapping it in wet paper towel and popping it in the freezer for 10 minutes

SEMI-HACK. Sticking a bottle of wine in the freezer for a quick chill is nothing new. Wrapping the bottle with a wet paper towel before popping it in the freezer? That seemed like an easy experiment so I decided to give it a try. The outcome? It chilled, but not any better than without the wet paper towel.

Freezer chilled with wet paper towel
With or without the wet paper towel, the more important note is that white wine and red wine are best served at different temperatures. The general rule of thumb is to serve whites at 45-50°F and reds at 55-65°F. For a fast chill, I would pop the whites in the freezer for about 15 minutes and the reds for about 5. Also, do not forget to take the wine out of the freezer. Water content in the wine will expand when it freezes and can cause breakage to the unopened bottle.

2. DIY a wine opener using a long screw, a screwdriver, and a hammer

WACK. I don’t know in what situation you will have a long screw, a screwdriver, and a hammer, but not a corkscrew. Enough said.
Not a Cockscrew by Julie Molliver on Unsplash

3. Save leftover wine for weeks by freezing it into iced wine cubes

HACK. According to the article, you can pop out an iced wine cube for cooking or making a chilled wine cocktail. I do keep leftover wine in the fridge for cooking, but I never freeze it. To make a chilled wine cocktail, it may be fun to use an iced wine cube. However, if I have an open bottle of good wine and need to leave town for a period of time, I would freeze the leftover bottle (forget the cubes) and thaw it to enjoy when I return. It will be as good as when you left it. 

4. Use frozen grapes instead of ice cubes to chill a glass of wine

SEMI-WACK. This hack comes with a plea to sommeliers to cover their ears so that says a lot. I would not use frozen grapes or ice cubes to chill a glass of good wine. Sticking the bottle in the freezer for 5-15 minutes is plenty good. But if you like the aesthetics of frozen grapes in your Two Buck Chuck, then sure, whatever floats in your wine.

Frozen grapes by Chris Reyem on Unsplash
5. Press salt generously into wine stain for two hours and pour boiling water over it

SEMI-WACK. I haven’t tried this method, but Good Housekeeping seems to think that salt and hot water will set the stain permanently so try this at your own risk. My go-to is Wine Away Stain Remover and cold water. Check out this Good Housekeeping article on How to Remove Red Wine Stains.

6. Use a blender to aerate wine

SEMI-WACK. Made popular (again) by the HBO series Succession, this extreme way of aerating wine is known as hyper decanting. The term was coined in 2011 by Nathan Myhrvold, author of Modernist Cuisine. Myhrvold claimed that hyper decanting works even for a 1982 Château Margaux. I wonder if anyone would experiment with the said wine or something equivalent.

Succession’s Connor Roy hyper-decanting wine
Aerating or introducing oxygen to wine brings out its aromatics and softens its tannins. This benefits young wine that tends to be tightly wound. Wine that has been aged for several years in the bottle is likely to have interacted with a very small amount of oxygen in the cork or through the cork. Over time, this micro-oxygenation allows the wine to develop complexity and elegance. For such older vintages, a sudden influx of oxygen will tip the balance of the wine chemistry and destroy the wine. Most sommeliers will not even use a Vinturi aerator for old wines, let alone a blender. Check out the experiment of hyper decanting by The Chicago Wine School before trying this on your own.

7. Use a coffee filter to catch bits from a broken cork

HACK. Broken corks happen when the stoppers become dried out and brittle. This is not uncommon with older bottles of wine or when wine bottles are stored upright in a dry condition. While I often use a fine mesh strainer to catch bits from a broken cork, a coffee filter will work as well, albeit more slowly. However, prevention is better than cure. To avoid broken corks, store wine bottles on the side or even upside down in a case. That way, the cork is in constant contact with the wine and will not dry out.

A note on corked wine - Be assured that corked wine is not caused by bits of cork floating in your wine. A screwcapped wine may be corked too. Corked wine is also not the same as oxidized wine. (The latter is wine that has been over-exposed to oxygen and is on the way to becoming vinegar.) Cork taint, which smells like wet cardboard, is caused by a compound called TCA. If you’d like to learn more, check out my blog post on Cork Taint in a Screwcap?

Join me next month for my review on the rest of the hacks!