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Cork Taint

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stickman

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Just curious how many members have experienced, or think they've experienced, cork taint.

I've been making wine for 29yrs now, and last night was the first time for me where I feel confident I experienced cork taint. Knowing what I know now, I think 20 years ago I had an entire batch that was affected by contaminated corks, but at the time I didn't know what I was smelling or tasting, thought it might be just poor winemaking.

Last night, sitting out on the neighbor's patio, I decided to open one of my last two bottles of 2013 Zinfandel, my neighbor noticed the aroma was off right away, I thought maybe it needed a little air, but after a few minutes I also concluded there was a problem. All of the other bottles of this wine had been very good, so this was unusual. I decided there was nothing else to do but open the last bottle, it was wonderful as expected, nice blend of fruit and tannin, and doing a side by side comparison with the suspect wine was very revealing, the contaminating odor was obvious. The odor remains difficult to describe, a little like the first odor from concrete during a light rain but with a hint of disinfectant. This makes no sense, but it smells like the way you might "think" a cork smells.

My records aren't good enough to determine specifically where the corks were purchased, but I've only used two suppliers, Scott Labs UF Sterisun grade, and Morewine grade 3. Given the number of years I've been making wine, this seems to be a rare occurrence and not really a big deal. Is it time to switch to one of the so called TCA free corks?
 

ibglowin

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Were they solid corks or agglomerated? I have had CT on several commercial wines including one time out to dinner in Santa fe (they took it back and opened another bottle which was day and night different).

I have not had any issues with any CT with my 1+1 corks from Lafitte Cork.
 

stickman

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For the past 20 years I've used all solid corks, the Scott Labs corks I buy in boxes of 1,000 and they appear very high quality, the Morewine grade 3 have always appeared to me to be a step down in quality but still adequate. I'm not crying as this is one instance in many years, but as you say it was night and day. The earlier case I referred to was many years ago and those corks were the 1+1 agglomerated from Presque Isle.
 

Rice_Guy

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Cork taint (TCA) is one of the standards that was given at Winemaker Magazine Conference’s wine judging workshop. NASTY! hard to get the flavor out of the mouth, earthy, moldy wood, LONG! lasting, hangs on even after eating crackers, , the aroma wasn’t as bad as what it did to the mouth.
Luckily I haven’t experienced it In real life, , must buy too much cheap screw cap wine:dg
 

Johnd

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I’ve experienced it three times, the first two were commercial wines in a restaurant, and the first of those two left me wondering if I really knew what I was tasting. Called the sommelier over for a taste, he couldn’t apologize enough or get the wine off of the table fast enough. The bottle was replaced with another of the same, which also was corked. We changed to a different wine.

Third was my wine, first batch of wine from grapes, Zinfandel frozen must. Corked with “premium” corks ordered online from a source I don’t recall, just the one bottle so far.
 

Ignoble Grape

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I’ve experienced it three times, the first two were commercial wines in a restaurant, and the first of those two left me wondering if I really knew what I was tasting. Called the sommelier over for a taste, he couldn’t apologize enough or get the wine off of the table fast enough. The bottle was replaced with another of the same, which also was corked. We changed to a different wine.

Third was my wine, first batch of wine from grapes, Zinfandel frozen must. Corked with “premium” corks ordered online from a source I don’t recall, just the one bottle so far.
One cork out of 20 years doesn't seem like terrible odds if you like your corks as-is.
 

bstnh1

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I've made probably 50 batches in 7 years and have never had any sign of cork taint. All my corks heave bi-discs from Widgetco. I did buy a couple of bottles of Sterling wine at the grocery store a few years ago that was badly tainted. It was absolutely putrid. I wrote to them and they sent me 3 free bottles.:)
 

GreginND

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The cork industry and modern winery practices have largely minimized the incidence of cork taint due to trichloranisole. I liken the smell to damp moldy newspapers. We have learned a lot about the cause of this particular cork taint. One think you can do as a home winemaker is to make sure you do not use any chlorine containing sanitizers (e.g. chlorine bleach) anywhere near your wine area and storage of your corks. That can help produce the offending compound. Bleach reacting in floor drains has been known to contaminate an entire winery.
 

jgmillr1

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As GreginND said, the occurrence of TCA in cork is much more rare now than 20 years ago. Coincidentally this was a topic in the latest "Wine Business Monthly" trade magazine. I've attached a chart produced by the Cork Quality Council in Cali showing the reduction of cork taint found in cork samples since 2001.CorkTaintTrend.png
 

ibglowin

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Fred,

For the past 100 years (or more) the cork producers didn't give a rats arse about cork taint or any sort of QA/QC for that matter. It was only when the Australians who were not only at the bottom of the world but also the bottom of the cork "food chain" got so pissed off at the shitty corks they were being sent with a "take it or leave it" attitude by the cork producers that they came up with the first try's at alternative closures and finally the Stelvin closure. The cork producers laughed at it and said nobody would ever use it. Then they started doing long term aging studies using them and found out not only were the wines taint free but depending on the inside liner you could actually control oxygen ingress just like a......... cork if you wanted to for red wines or not at all for white wines. After the Stelvin started to catch on more and more and cork orders worldwide started to plummet that they panicked and said maybe we better actually do something to stem the tide of defection to alternative closures before we go the way of the Kodak film camera. Since that time they have cleaned up their act and things have improved tremendously industry wide. Necessity is really the mother of invention after all it turns out.
 

mainshipfred

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Fred,

For the past 100 years (or more) the cork producers didn't give a rats arse about cork taint or any sort of QA/QC for that matter. It was only when the Australians who were not only at the bottom of the world but also the bottom of the cork "food chain" got so pissed off at the shitty corks they were being sent with a "take it or leave it" attitude by the cork producers that they came up with the first try's at alternative closures and finally the Stelvin closure. The cork producers laughed at it and said nobody would ever use it. Then they started doing long term aging studies using them and found out not only were the wines taint free but depending on the inside liner you could actually control oxygen ingress just like a......... cork if you wanted to for red wines or not at all for white wines. After the Stelvin started to catch on more and more and cork orders worldwide started to plummet that they panicked and said maybe we better actually do something to stem the tide of defection to alternative closures before we go the way of the Kodak film camera. Since that time they have cleaned up their act and things have improved tremendously industry wide. Necessity is really the mother of invention after all it turns out.
I knew it was a pun but I was just curious about those screw top capsules and if they were heat shrinks. My wife would love it if she didn't have to mess with corks and I really don't want to buy a foil spinner. LOL!
 

crushday

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I’m certain I had a tainted bottle last evening. Unfortunately, it’s one of 74 bottles left from a batch of Cabernet I made a couple years ago. Something has been off on this wine all along - aged in a barrel.

Like @stickman I thought it needed more air. I let it sit for over an hour and it grew worse as time progressed.

I’m going to try a bottle from that batch again in about a week. My expectations are very low at this point.
 
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vineyarddog

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Funny that this post resurfaced tonight. I just dumped a bottle of inexpensive commercial wine that tasted like wet newspaper. It smelled like my dog when I opened it so I knew immediately something was wrong.. 2016 The Federalist Cabernet Sauvignon. Woof!
 

Johnd

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I’m certain I had a tainted bottle last evening. Unfortunately, it’s one of 74 bottles left from a batch of Cabernet I made a couple years ago. Something has been off on this wine all along - aged in a barrel.

Like @stickman I thought it needed more air. I let it sit for over an hour and it grew worse as time progressed.

I’m going to try a bottle from that batch again in about a week. My expectations are very low at this point.
Hopefully, it’s not a whole batch. Cork taint (corked wine or TCA) most often comes from the cork itself, hope that’s the case here. If the whole batch has it, get it out of your cellar quickly.
 

crushday

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@Johnd - I hope so too. Especially since I have 15 gallons of awesome Zin in the same barrel the Cab was aged in. Ultimately, this might serve as a lesson learned. This barrel is one of two that I picked up 14 months ago that had one run of whiskey aged in it for a year. At the time I didn’t understand the difference between a barrel being toasted (wine) and charred (spirits). This barrel was marked “medium char”. I remember someone (maybe @stickman or @NorCal) mentioning a charred barrel having an adverse effect on wine. I’ll monitor the Zin and the bottled Cab. If I get that taste again in the Cab I’ll just dump it all and throw the bottles away. Note: The second barrel seems fine at this point.

As far as a cork, I use Nomacorc Reserva so I THINK this is not coming from the cork with all other conditions considered.

In 2018 I read an article how Opus One had tainted wine that came from barrels. Entire batches were ruined. Their situation is very different from mine but their experience was catalytic as I’ve considered my own situation.
 
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