Romance, embodied in the removal of the beloved cork from a favorite wine with that pleasantly soft pop is rampant. So many wine drinkers sincerely express feelings of anticipation and excitement in this ritual and are completely shocked by my expressed hatred of cork.
Indeed I understand, even empathize with the emotions that surround the opening of a hopefully great bottle of wine. In the distant past I have even beat the drum to keep cork as the premier closure for wine bottles, but the more bottles I opened the more disillusioned I became. You see in any given year I find 1 out of every 10 bottles with a cork flawed by cork taint. The flaw is trichloroanisole or TCA, or the newly derived bromine based compound. Often described by the wine geeks of the world as “corky” or “corked”.
Just this week a very excited sommelier at Epic Roadhouse in San Francisco brought over a wine she hoped would intrigue us. Joining me were Master Sommeliers Tim Gaiser and Peter Granoff and she wished to treat us. Well much to the dismay of all the treat of an older bottle of Château Musar Blanc from Lebanon was just another reason to hate cork. Then the 1978 Boal Madeira for dessert was tainted as well. Yes that is two wines out of four!
In 2009 I was hosting a CRUSH Michigan charity dinner at a collectors home where the two central courses were luxuriously joined to 1986 Château Mouton, 1986 Château Lafite, 1996 Château Petrus, and 1995 Masseto. A killer line up of other worldly wines except all but the Masseto had one corky bottle out of the 3 for dinner. Thousands of dollars in wine ruined, and completely unlike what the winemaker lovingly placed in the bottle many years before. Then similarly a magnum of Petrus 1985 was opened in 2011 for our honorary chefs as a treat, it was corked as well,$10,000 down the drain. Sadly these are only two examples of the now tens of thousands of dollars of once great wine that I have thrown away because of the cork.
In short the tragic nature of great wines being ruined by the bottle closure is ridiculous. What other industry will tolerate a 10% or more loss in product and still be in business? The answer is only the wine industry and it is simply, because the wineries do not get these flawed bottles dropped off at their doorstep. Sadly, a great majority of wine drinkers are just unhappy with the wine not realizing the flaw. They may not return the bottle but they likely will not buy it again.
Another eye-opening reality is that on average a bottle of wine lives two hours after purchase. If you are going to open the wine in two hours then what difference does it make how they sealed it! This being reality let’s move to a better concept. Think back to a time before glass bottles and we find amphorae sealed with beeswax, pine resin, and straw. That was the standard closure of the day but we would not even consider that now. Cork is the standard closure now but we have better options.
On any given retail shelf one can now find bag in the box, tetra pak, stelvin (twist off), glass stoppers , plastic cork, composite cork, and traditional cork. I assure you that twist off and the glass stopper method far exceed cork, and composite cork, in guaranteeing that what the wine maker worked so hard to create is exactly what you are getting.