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Simple solution for cork taint

March 28, 2007

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 the aroma 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 cork taint is relatively mild.

In a glass pitcher, wad up roughly a square foot of Saran Wrap or other polyethylene plastic wrap. Pour the tainted wine over the plastic wrap in the pitcher. Expose all of the wine to the plastic wrap by gently swirling 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 of wrap.

Pour out a small amount of wine to 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.

As offensive as cork taint is, from a health standpoint it's harmless. Cork taint 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. Once TCA infects a winery, it is difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate.

-- Corie Brown

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