[This is an article by Corie Brown, LA Times, Mar 28, 2007.
At best, the technique described can only reduce the cork taint; it can not
reverse the damage already done to the wine; in addition, there is some concern
about potential health effects of the plasticizers in plastic wrap.]
Corked wine is the ultimate wine disappointment, all the more
crushing when the bottle in question is a costly, highly anticipated
extravagance. One whiff of old gym socks, the signature scent of trichloranisole
(TCA), and the only option is to pour the bottle down the sink. Or is it?
Mel Knox, a San Francisco-based oak-barrel broker who represents
French cooper Taransaud, says there is an easy solution, particularly when the
taint is relatively mild. In a glass pitcher, wad up roughly a square foot of
Saran or other polyethylene plastic wrap. Pour the tainted wine over the plastic
wrap in the pitcher. Gently swirl the wine in the pitcher for five or 10
minutes. The more pronounced the taint, the longer the wine should be exposed to
the plastic wrap. For stubborn cases, repeat the plastic soak with a fresh wad
Test the results, and when the taint is gone, decant the wine into
another container. Toss the plastic and enjoy the wine. Polyethylene absorbs TCA
like a sponge, says Brian Smith, president of Vinovation, a “wine fix-it
shop” that is experimenting with different plastic-filled cartridge filters
that can be thrown into cork-tainted barrels or tanks to absorb TCA.
Cork taint is offensive, but it is harmless from a health
standpoint. It derives its name from cork closures. The prime cause is a
reaction between a mold found in cork crevices and chlorine-containing cleaning
compounds used to clean the corks. Its presence also can be traced to wineries
where phenolic wood preservatives come in contact with chlorine compounds.
is Cork Taint?
Cork taint refers to a dank, moldy, musty, or cardboard smell and
taste that masks or dominates the fruit aroma and flavor of wine and reduces the
overall quality. The source is a particular chemical compound formed by a
reaction between mold and chemicals. Infected wines are said to be “corked”
or “corky,” and the contaminant often referred to as “cork taint,”
although corks are not the only potential source. Molds are often present in raw
cork bark or in wood used for barrels or barrel racks, tanks, scaffolding,
walls, stairs, pallets, cardboard boxes, or other winery equipment. Ironically,
the very chemicals used for keeping the wineries sterile and safe from
contamination may be degraded by fungi or molds indigenous to wood products.
Not all instances of cork taint are due to
More on cork taint
Individuals vary in their threshold ability to detect the presence
and strength of cork taint; experience can increase sensitivity. The human
threshold for detection is generally considered to be above 5 nanograms per
liter. The estimated incidence of cork-tainted wine bottles ranges from two to
seven percent. The degrading effect of TCA increases over time in the bottle.
Because most wines are drunk young, and because most casual drinkers do not
recognize the taste, the average drinker is rarely aware of the defect.
Experienced wine lovers and collectors report a higher incidence, for they often
drink older wines.