Category:Corks/closures

More natural cork foolishness

The natural cork business has spent the past year spending millions of dollars to convince consumers that cork is not only the perfect closure for wine, but will save the environment. This campaign is strikingly odd, and not just because it glosses over cork's efficacy as a closure. Which, as noted, isn't good.

As Decanter's Adam Lechmere wrote: "The statement's sentiments are as suspect as its syntax. It demonstrates once again that the cork industry's grasp on the realities of public relations is as shaky as ever."

A friend of mine, who does cork marketing, said that the biggest problem with the cork campaign is not just that it's an unusual approach. The problem is that even if it wasn't unusual, it would still be difficult to accomplish successfully. The cork industry is asking consumers to buy wine based on the closure, and not what's in the bottle. How impractical is that? More, and an amazingly dumb video, after the jump:

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Why I don’t like wine corks — still

We can write all we want about how the quality of corks has improved, and the cork business can run campaigns and talk about how much effort they’ve made to improve the quality of corks.

But that doesn’t alter one unalterable fact: Cork is not the best wine closure. I was reminded of that Saturday night, when I opened a bottle of white Burgundy (chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France) and was overwhelmed with the smell of a damp basement. The wine, a Hubert Lamy Saint-Aubin La Princ e 2006, was corked, and I had to dump it.

My irritation — no, it was more than that — was not because the wine was particularly expensive or because I had paid for it or even because it was one of my favorites. It was, for white Burgundy, moderately priced at $22, and I had never had a Lamy before. I just like white Burgundy, this was in the store, and I had bought it.

What happened, and what it means, after the jump:

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Are wine corks fashionable again? Part II

Tina Caputo, the editor at Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, had an interesting assignment for me: Has the media perception of corks changed over the past several years?

Her point, and it was a good one, was that the Winestream Media was quick to hop on the anti-cork bandwagon, and that its efforts played a key role in detailing the problems that cork had with the industry and with consumers. But now that cork has improved, is the media reporting that?

It's not news that cork wine closures had quality problems. Failure rates were as high as 10 percent, according to some studies. If 1 out of 10 bottles of ketchup were off because the closure failed, there'd be a federal investigation. But it wasn't until the mainstream wine media picked up the failure story that the cork industry started to fix things. Now that the quality of corks has improved — and even its harshest critics think it has — has the media covered that?

The answer, which appeared in my story in the May/June issue of VWM? Not really. The story isn't available online, so I covered the highlights Thursday and today. Today, after the jump, why so few people are writing about cork's improvements. Thursday detailed cork's quality problems, and why they seem to be over.

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Are wine corks fashionable again? Part I

Cork quality has improved, but does anyone know?

Tina Caputo, the editor at Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, had an interesting assignment for me: Has the media perception of corks changed over the past several years?

Her point, and it was a good one, was that the Winestream Media was quick to hop on the anti-cork bandwagon, and that its efforts played a key role in detailing the problems that cork had with the industry and with consumers. But now that cork has improved, is the media reporting that?

It's not news that cork wine closures had quality problems. Failure rates were as high as 10 percent, according to some studies. If 1 out of 10 bottles of ketchup were off because the closure failed, there'd be a federal investigation. But it wasn't until the mainstream wine media picked up the failure story that the cork industry started to fix things. Now that the quality of corks has improved — and even its harshest critics think it has — has the media covered that?

The answer, which appeared in my story in the May/June issue of VWM? Not really. The story isn't available online, so I'll hit the highlights today and Friday. Today, after the jump, cork's problems and the improvement in quality. Friday, why so few people are writing about it.

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Wine review: Hey Mambo Swanky White 2007

This has been, for the past couple of vintages, a decent enough white wine blend. And then someone at The Other Guys, the subsidiary of Don Sebastiani & Sons (think Smoking Loon) that produces the wine and a Hey Mambo red, had a great idea: Use more viognier and chenin blanc and less sauvignon blanc. (And we know how much the Wine Curmudeon appreciates viognier and chenin blanc).

The result is impressive. Look for a fresh, apricot fruity and juicy wine that isn ?t sweet and has enough zing to stand up to most white wine foods. It reminded me of many of the cheap and well-made Gascogne wines that have showed up over the past couple of years. The suggested retail price is $13, so it may be available for as little as $10.99 in some parts of the country.

And yes, that ?s a Zork closure.

Wine terms: Corked

Wine terms: Corked

“Ewww… a wet puppy.”

It can happen to any wine with a cork closure, regardless of price. It doesn ?t make any difference what kind of wine it is, where it ?s from, or who makes it. Cork taint, or corked wine, will spoil any wine at any time.

Know two things about corked wine. First, it ?s caused by the presence of a chemical compound called TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole for any chemists in the audience), which occurs in the cork and works its way into the wine. TCA can also be present in the winery, a chemical reaction waiting to happen. Research has shown that using chlorine cleaning products increases the chances of TCA presence, and most wineries don ?t use them any more.

Second, TCA changes the flavor and aroma of the wine. Sometime it ?s subtle, and sometime it ?s as obvious as a wet puppy — literally. That ?s one of the descriptions of the way corked wines smell and taste. Among the others: Moldy, musty, wet newspaper and dank basement.

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Wine of the week: Reds 2006

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One of the few good reasons for using corks to close wines was when Reds had pictures of famous Bolsheviks on its corks. The Wine Curmudgeon still  has some Lenin and Trotsky corks in a drawer somewhere.

Reds (about $9) is a screw top these days, but the wine remains true to its mission ?  a cheap, quality red wine blend that ?s food friendly. It ?s a little more fruit forward and raspberry jammy than it used to be, but it ?s still a well-made wine that offers considerable value and deserves $10 Hall of Fame consideration. I drank it with roast chicken, and it would also do well with hamburgers, grilled sausages and spaghetti and meatballs.