A report by Liza B Zimmerman on the Wine-Searcher website reveals that the world’s largest cork maker Amorim has developed a technique called NDtech (short for “non-discernable”), which uses gas chromatography to detect any cork with 0.05 nanograms of TCA per litre and removes it from the production line.
A spokesman for the company says “There should be no TCA in natural cork by 2020.”
18 years ago I visited Amorim’s factory in Portugal and later had dinner with CEO Antonio Amorim, who explained how they had accepted a small amount of cork taint in their closures and expected their cork distributors to manage the problem. However, the recent acceptance of alternative closures posed a threat to their market and reducing cork taint would help to retain the loyalty of cork customers.
They had invested in gas chromatographs to detect the presence of TCA, the chemical that causes cork taint, and as a result had modified production methods, which helped them reduce cork taint by around 50%. Changes to cork production included changing the water between batches of cork bark during the washing process and using metal rather than wooden pallets to hole sheets of cork bark during the drying process – wooden pallets were found to be infected with TCA.
The Diam closure also claims to have eliminated cork taint by grinding cork into small chips and treating them with supercritical CO2 to extract the volatile compounds, including TCA, which give a taste to the wine. The chips are then glued together to form a cork-like plug. In 2015 Diam released a new product, Origine, which uses a beeswax emulsion and binding agent composed of 100% plant-derived polyphenols.
The prospect of TCA-free corks is good news. I doubt that it will encourage many screwcap and Diam users to switch to cork but it should slow the current rate of defectors from cork to alternative closures.
Meanwhile, if you do come across a bottle of wine that’s corked try wrapping a plastic supermarket shopping bag around a teaspoon and use it to stir the wine. According to the Australian Wine Research Institute, much of the TCA will bind to a polymer in the plastic and significantly reduce the level of cork taint. Trust me, it works.
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