kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


The great cork debate rolls on...

George M. Taber, the author of the book "Judgement of Paris," which chronicles the legendary 1976 tasting that pitted French wines against those from California, with CA taking the prize after the blind tastings, is penning a new book. "To Cork or Not to Cork: The Billion-Dollar Battle for the Bottle." Wine's article says this work will analyze and describe the great debate of real corks vs. synthetic ones vs. glass closures vs. screw caps, and is scheduled for release in October.

A large part of the case against the cork, of course, centers around "cork taint," the presence of TCA (trichloroanisole (2,4,6-TCA)), a chemical compound that can make a bottle of wine smell and taste like wet dog, wet newspaper or a moldy basement--not exactly attractive qualities in a wine. It's estimated that between 3-7% of the world's wines are tainted, mostly due to affected corks.

One of the most interesting facts mentioned in this article is that people can detect TCA in as little as 2 ppt (parts per trillion). This article gives a good analogy--it's akin to 1 second in 320 years. A speck, to be sure, and the fact that noses and palates can pick up this small amount is simply amazing, and a true testament that the debate against using corks is a strong one.

Of course, there are also lots of reasons to use corks--tradition, a tight seal, the "romance" factor. I'm looking forward to reading this book when it's released to see all sides of the issue.