Who’re you backing?! The challenge is on! Our much loved “Natural Corks” up against the new up and coming youngsters, the “Screw cap Titans”. All our lives we have loyally supported our “Natural Corks”. With heaps of French tradition backing the team for centuries, there’s just no other that can beat the classic classy popping sound when we open an older, South African red. Although the relatively new “Synthetic Team” can score on sounds affects, the aesthetics of the natural cork: there’s just no comparison! On the other hand, the new up and coming “Screw cap Titans”, traditionally associated with the image of the Stellenbosch student drinking Tassenberg, seems to gain more and more field and market share with prestige brands such as Brampton and Vergelegen siding with it! How on earth did they manage that? What’s their game plan, or should we ask: where lies the “Natural Corks’” weakest link? As we know, a team is just as strong as its weakest link!
Although long speculated, the wine industry is now finally verbalizing the weakest link of the “Natural Corks”. We, as winemakers, know it as TCA (2,4,6 trichloroanisole). In layman’s terms: Cork spoilage/taint, or when a wine is corked. A corked wine varies in TCA levels. With higher amounts of TCA, it’s like diving nose first into a HTH sterile swimming pool or slapping your taste buds with some paper wrapped, vinegar soaked, slap chips from the fish and chips vendor down the road! The wine would typically have a medicinal, musty, mouldy or wet Hessian character. Where the problem lies, is that if you as a wine drinker are not familiar with its taste and smell, you will most probably label the wine as of inferior quality.
TCA is a chlorine based component, a product formed by microscopic fungi such as Aspergillus sp. and Pennicilium sp. in its natural habitat, the cork tree in Europe. They convert chlorophenols into chloroanisole. Because it is generally acceptable to have a percentage of your corks with higher TCA levels, it therefore means that a number of bottles in every 1000 bottles might be corked, whilst the rest might be fine.
This of course leaves you with The Question?: Are you willing to take the risk as the winemaker/decision maker that someone somewhere might open one of your bottles of top quality wine, and label it as of inferior quality?? That’s not a risk I’d like to take! On the other hand: What’s the use I decide on screw caps and no one buys my wine?!?
SO? The verdict: You tell me! Personally, I do not think research will determine the winner! You will!
For those of you who’d like more information on the subject, have a look at an interesting website I came across: http://www.aromadictionary.com/articles/corktaint_article.html