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Posted by portugalpress on August 24, 2017

Wine stoppers is always a hot subject here in Portugal. This country is, after all, the world’s largest producer of cork and it is seen as unpatriotic for any wine producer here to use an alternative. But the fact is that whilst there has been major progress in controlling cork taint, the majority of wine corks on the market still carry the risk.

In last week’s edition of FT Weekend, wine guru Jancis Robinson dedicated her weekly column to the subject, revealing some very interesting facts. In her article, she includes an interesting comparison based on the cost of stoppers for 1,000 bottles ranging from €100 for a good quality screwcap to as much as €1,100 for the most expensive glass stoppers. Synthetic corks cost as much as €250 whilst the best untreated natural cork costs between €300 and €400.

This goes to show just how cost effective the screw cap is and, as Jancis explains, screwcaps have been improved over the years to the extent that they now have OTR (oxygen transmission rates) that allows wines to age properly, even more consistently than most cork.

The big revelation of her article, however, is the development of new corks that either totally eradicate TCA (the chemical compound that is usually responsible for cork taint) or reduce it to completely imperceptible levels.

One of the major producers is French company Diam whose factory in Spain, just across the border from Portugal, uses cork from around the world that is broken down into particles and treated with supercritical carbon dioxide, a process that was initially developed for the food and cosmetics industries and eliminates all volatile molecules. These corks cost slightly less than good quality natural cork and have also been developed to allow for optimum OTR.

But Portuguese cork giant Amorim also has a trump card of its own with the new NDtech cork, a premium quality natural cork that is subjected to such an extreme selection process that they can guarantee it is free from any perceptible trace of TCA. This is the most expensive of the cork options, at €500 for 1,000 corks and, as Jancis points out, producers already using them “are enjoying wine evolution that is as consistent as it would be under screwcap”. Umm…

By Patrick Stuart
patrick.stuart@open-media.net

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