As far as I heard screw corks and/or synthetics can preserve the wines perfectly well >>
August 20 2002, 4:39 AM
but are relatively newfangled when considered to use with wines.
The real corks are traditional and albeit there is always the risk that the wine turns sour (meaning the wine has "cork", which does not happen with synthetic corks) I cannot imagine a sommelier, opening a fine bottle of wine with a screw cap remover same as for beer or Coca Cola.
But yes, the screw cork and synthetic ones are as good as the traditional cork and probably even better, IMHO.
Some screw caps and synthetics work + Description of cork problem
September 20 2002, 7:29 AM
Lord Arran is absolutely correct - yet again dear sir. Most screw caps and synthetic corks do a perfectly fine job of preserving wines. Indeed there has been quite a bit of scientific (materials) research in the past decade or so and most of the new synthetic compounds employed, both as cork substitutes as well as in screw cap seals, are 'better' than cork.
The problem is with the compound 246 trichloroanisole, which may result from a mold occurring during the cork curing process. In any case, research at UC Davis and other places suggests that between five and ten percent of cork sealed wines may suffer some symptoms of 'cork taint'. It ranges from a subtle obfuscation of the flavors to a complete musty overtone.
Unfortunately, there is no way to determine which corks (or bottles) may suffer. Both high and low quality cork can contain 246 TCA, so wine producers and consumers are left playing a bit vino russian roulette.
It is as yet unclear if any significant differences occur between the seal methods over the long term (10+ years). But given the frequency of cork taint and the additional problems with degradation and improper seals, there is little doubt that we'll all see less cork in the future.
I like the process of opening a bottle with a cork made of cork...
August 20 2002, 5:41 AM
, but there's not that much difference in sensation with a synthetic cork. I wouldn't personally mind if the better wineries started using synthetic cork, if it would minimise potential damage to the wine. I would probably prefer they use synthetic cork to screw caps, however.
but the top wineries, I would guess, will never not use real cork. If they can afford to build new barrels every year, then they can afford real cork.
What annoys me though, is when less expensive wineries use these sort of reconstituted cork corks, i.e. lots of little pieces of cork all pressed together. I was drinking a bottle of wine a few weeks ago (it was about $15-20, which still isn't exactly cheap) and the cork utterly disintegrated as it was being pulled out. There was nothing per se wrong with the cork, just that I find it is the nature of these cheapo corks to break up on occasion, and I would welcome their being replaced by synthetic cork. I would prefer some sort of cork though, as I would miss the process of removing it. There's something unpleasantly pedestrian about simply unscrewing a bottle cap.
Due to the recent boom of wine, the quality of the natural cork delivered became worse. Normally, the cork cut from the oaks has to be thoroughly dried to prevent fungus from spoiling it, adding the disgusting taste we possibly all know. However, the demand for natural cork has exploded, and the producers (mainly in Spain) often hasten the delivery of the cork. A wine grower in the Austrian Wachau, whom I know rather well, complained to me some time ago that a complete delivery of corks he received was infected with fungus. He had to throw it away. thus, synthetic cork is a true alternative. However, the same wine grower informed me that he would never use it for good red wine, in spite of the fact that the synthetic cork lets pass at the same amount of air than the natural one.
While I am a newbie watch enthusiast, I spent almost 20 years importing (mostly French) wines into the US. I am now retired for the last couple of years. My sad experience is that the percentage of wine affected by corkyness is between 5 & 10% for high quality wines (expensive corks) and even higher for wines using cheap corks. The effect of this upon the wine itself varies from mild unpleasantness to foul undrinkablity. Although the industry is well aware of the problem, it is in denial about its pervasive nature. I would far prefer to pull a synthetic cork from a bottle of Griotte-Chambertin 10 or 12 years hence than be forced to cook with that bottle because it's corked. In spite of all evidence to the contrary the suits and marketers see synthetic corks as declassé and evidence of poor quality. Things change very slowly. Best regards
and if they protect the wine better then that can only be a good thing. Maybe there'd be some way of tarting the corks up a little to make them appear less pedestrian (some sort of embossed design on the top?)?
Once one of the top producers started using synthetic, i.e. Latour or the like, then that would probably open the floodgates. I get the impression that this is highly unlikely given the troglodytic nature of wine producers.
I notice from back threads your passion for white truffle; with all of the rains this summer there should be early truffles in Alba this year. Almost certailny before mid october. There is an open air market every Sat. morn in Alba where you can negotiate for truffles directly with the contadini (be careful that they don't foist any off on you that are turning mushy; they should all be firm). If you smell truffle in one of the narrow streets and see a contadino in his threadbare coat with somewhat greasy lapels, look for a twist of newspaper sticking out of his pocket, most likly wrapping truffles. My experience has been that they are willing to sell directly to you. All the best R
Thank you for your kindness, but unfortunately towards middle of October >>
September 11 2002, 11:44 PM
and even before I shall be under heavy stress shortly after my stay of about 6 months here in France and I cannot leave for Alba. Since my departure will be on October 12, one more time I have to do without white truffles. However, there is truffle oil, which I can keep for a few weeks and together with Pasta I have kind of a truffle meal too. Truffle oil can be bought here.
Thank you again for your kindness, I have been touched.
Synthetic Cork could be made to look like real cork
September 15 2002, 2:34 PM
Reading this discussion, everyone seems to assume that there are only two alternatives: natural cork and screw-cap. But there is a third one, a foamed rubber made to look and behave like natural cork. This should combine the the aesthetics of the old way and the reliability of the modern way to bottle liquids. There might be one draw-back, it might be much more expensive than natural cork.
It is a misconception that cork should let air into a bottle. Exactly this should not happen. To make sure, some bottles are sealed with wax or something similar on top of the cork. Synthetic materials are much safer in this respect.
The problem in using a synthetic material is the time that wine is in a bottle. Many liquids are bottled nowadays with screw-caps. The sealing is due to a thin layer of an elastomer. Usually these liquids stay only weeks or months in the bottle. Wine might be much longer in contact with the seal, 30 years or more, and it contains alcohol, a solvent for some additives used in polymers. Nobody knows what will happen in such a long time. There is no reliable way of predicting the aging process. I heard rumours that there are bottles lying in the many cellars with synthetic seals, and the change of wine and seal is monitored. But obviously, these experiments started only several years back. We will have to wait for many more years, before the grand red wines will be sealed with synthetic seals. And I'm very confident, that the use of natural cork will end when a good replacement is found.
Although I wouldn't try to make the synthetic cork look like real cork as I feel that wouldn't work, but I do think that some sort of embossed logo on the top of the cork could make them look a little more "classy" and expensive looking. I am all in favour of synthetic corks.
I had some Sicilian wine at the weekend which used an attractively designed cork - the wine was god-awful, but the cork was nice.
the few synthetic corks I have seen in bottles have been lurid orange or yellow. Flaunting the use of synthetics has been a sort of inverse snobism. Perhaps when the long-term results of synthetic cork on wine storage is better documented, there will be less resistance on the part of producers. Cheers