The spring rainy season has us working inside this time of year, both taking care of the brand new wines from the 2015 vintage and getting the older wines ready for bottling. The “getting ready” is a long process, and includes evaluating the corks that are the final touch on every bottle. Anthony had a cold, so I went with him for the first time, and it was fascinating!
Twenty-five years ago, cork taint was responsible for many bad bottles of wine, but considered part of the cost of business. However, as the prices on wines rose, both the collecting buyers and wineries demanded that the problem be addressed, leading us to today, with dozens of good choices in closures. (Take a look at Cork Supply’s site – https://corksupply.com/us/products/ .) Plastic, amalgams, sophisticated synthetics, glass stoppers and screw tops with varying degrees of permeability all have made their appearance recently. But we still prefer cork, the traditional closure. Happily, we can now actually inspect the available cork lots and choose the ones we like best.
Five corks from each lot are put in small jars and submerged in ethanol for 24 hours. Ethanol is a solvent, pulling flavor, smell and color from the cork. The ethanol is then poured into small wine glasses, and each one is sniffed for scent. Surprisingly, after the first couple dozen glasses, I began to pick up the off corks easily. Cooked rice, hay, coconut, caramel, dirt, bricks – all those scents were there. And only one glass, out of several hundred spread out over four tables, had the musty cardboard scent of TCA. Excellent results – one task on the checklist we can cross off!