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Dan's Blog

CORK

Friday, June 09, 2017
This week I am getting back on my hobby horse – corks! I have been advocating against this out of date technology since 1993. Have a read and judge for yourself, but for me corks today are as practical as relying on the horse and cart instead of the motor car.

Recently, at the annual IQ (Innovation & Quality) Conference held in California there was a seminar called ADVANCES IN CORK QUALITY, presented by Amorim (the largest cork supplier in the world) and Cork Supply – another “biggie” in the world of cork.

Both announced the release of natural corks (as opposed to the shredded and reconstituted by gluing “corks” being produced by some suppliers) that are guaranteed to be 100% taint free.

Amorim presented its ND Tech system, while Cork Supply unveiled its DS100+ system.

Both said that since 2001 new quality control programs in the production of corks had been instituted so that today the levels of TCA (cork taint) is 96% lower than what they were in 2001 (according to their figures). Hmmm! I wonder what happened in 2001 that prompted this massive burst of research to solve a problem that had always existed and had been ignored for decades. Oh, wait! Wasn’t it in 2000 that the Australian wine industry started to adopt the widespread usage of screwcaps?

So really ALL wine drinkers around the world owe the Australian wine industry a big “Thanks”. Could you imagine all this research (not to mention the tens of millions they spent advertising that the problem didn’t exist) being done IF somebody hadn’t opted for the wholesale use of a competitor product – or am I just being cynical?

The article which appeared in WakawakaWineReviews.com was sickly sweet in favour of corks and the “amazing” advances that had been made over the last decade. It was only at the end in small print that the following appeared: Post update: “the article has been edited to add additional comments on reasons to consider cork.” That is, it is a “paid political announcement” cunningly disguised as a report on a conference!!

The article went on to say that the Amorim ND Tech “effectively guarantees any screened corks will have no detectable TCA.”

On the Amorim website it actually says: “Winemakers can now use the supreme guardian for wine – natural cork – with an unprecedented quality control level that effectively eliminates the risk of cork taint, by ensuring that if any TCA remains present in the cork, it is below the detection threshold of 0.5 nanograms/litre.”

WOW! So what they are actually saying is that they don’t guarantee that their corks are TCA free but rather that you won’t be able to detect any TCA in their corks. In addition, they went on to say that they currently have the capacity to screen a total of 42 million corks a year (Cork Supply said they can do 20 million corks). That is less than half of what a brand like Yellow Tail would use IF they were using corks – So what about the other billions of bottles?

Well, the article then went on to say: “For those reliant on natural corks, it isn’t clear that every wine needs a cork guaranteed to be free of TCA. Different wine types and different wine markets have very different needs. It might simply make sense for less expensive wines to be bottled under standard cork. The risk of small portions of TCA might be economically reasonable on less expensive wine.” The bolding was my doing. So stop and think what they are really saying here: in other words, if you buy less expensive wine, you don’t deserve to have taint free corks i.e. you can’t tell the difference – only those people who can afford expensive wines can tell the difference!

So, tell me dear reader would you accept it if say your butcher said to you – if you buy scotch fillet we will guarantee that you won’t be able to taste/detect any purification in the meat BUT if you buy bolar blade or gravy beef you don’t deserve or get the same guarantee?

To me it seems as though after spending tens of millions of Euros telling us there was no problem (i.e. we were wrong) the cork industry is now saying that they have a fix-it (patch) for one of the several problems with their closures (others being possible: seepage, premature oxidation, cork crumbling, difficulty in opening, and the need to lay the bottles down).

However, that fix-it can only be applied to a small proportion on the products they sell each year and the vast majority of consumers don’t really deserve the patch because they are drinking “cheaper” wine.

Imagine the global outcry IF Microsoft had a major problem (let alone five to six of them) with its software and it came out and said something like: we have a fix but we can only supply it to 10%-25% of people using our software. The rest of you will have to make do, because you do not use your computer properly enough to warrant the fix. Apple shares would go through the roof!

In this analogy Microsoft represents the cork producers and Apple the screwcaps and glass stopper producers. Or, to put my view another way – Corks are the horse and cart equivalent of early in the 20th century while screwcaps and glass stoppers are the automobile! We didn’t go out and kill all the horses when the car came along BUT imagine what a shitty world we would be living in IF we still had to rely on the horse instead of the car for transport.

Sorry, but for my money the cork producers have a heck of a long way to go before they overcome their challenges and are able to offer a realistic alternative to screwcaps or glass stoppers.

Cheers and have a great week!

THIS WEEK’S WINE REVIEW:

This week we have a “dynamic duo” from the Coonawarra’s Katnook Estate. These two sensational wines are both equally as good as each other. It’s just a case of whether you prefer Cabernet or Shiraz. Or like me, both!!  www.katnookestate.com.au

KATNOOK COONAWARRA 2012 PRODIGY SHIRAZ: A consistent high flyer. The very first vintage won the JIMMY WATSON TROPHY in 1998 and the 2012 is just as classy.

There are ripe berries and oak on the bouquet. It is a big, elegant wine with layers of flavour, supple tannins and superb balance.

This wine will keep well for 10 years or more, IF you possess the patience and have good storage conditions. ABSOLUTELY SCRUMPTIOUS!

 

KATNOOK ESTATE 2012 COONAWARRA ‘ODYSSEY’ CABERNET SAUVIGNON: This is a powerful and concentrated BIG wine, with masses of deep colour, pungent varietal aromas, including plenty of vanillin oak aromas. It has a deep, dense, concentrated palate which is rich and smooth.

No wonder that this big, elegant, classy wine is one of the 52 wines rated as ‘Outstanding’ in the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wines. Well deserved, as is the 95 point rating from James Halliday.

Whilst a cracker now, this wine will cellar sensationally for a decade, or even longer. TRULY OUTSTANDING!!