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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:

My irritation was that I had waited all week — literally — to drink the wine. The weather in Dallas has been hot and miserable, hitting 100 degrees two or three weeks before it normally does. Work has been hectic, with a bunch of deadlines crammed together, and more on the way.

So dinner Saturday night was going to be a respite from all of that — a main course, Nicoise-style salad that included lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes picked that day from the garden; tuna that actually tasted like tuna; deviled eggs; and marinated chickpeas, served with a crusty, French-style bread I had baked that afternoon. I had bought a bottle of $9 Dub uf Beaujolais-Villages 2008 (which turned out to be less soft and more interesting than the current vintage) to drink while I was preparing dinner and decanting the Lamy.

And then I would enjoy the Lamy — slowly and deliberately and with pleasure. Which, as it turned out, didn’t happen. The TCA had done what TCA does, and the wine was ruined. I kept smelling and sipping it, hoping the off-smell would blow away and that it would eventually taste like something other than a dull, muted version of itself. But it never did.

Are corks romantic? Sure. Is romance the most important thing about wine? Nope. The wine is. And until the wine business decides that the wine is more important than the romance, this will keep happening. And it will be the wine drinker’s loss — something, sadly, that the wine business doesn’t understand.

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5 thoughts on “Why I don’t like wine corks — still

  • By Prioratwineguy - Reply

    As a producer and long time lover of wine I have to agree with what you have posted here. But before casting blame on the entire industry (“And until the wine business decides that the wine is more important than the romance”), consider this: No matter what enclosure I choose (cork, synthetic, or screw-cap), I am certain to piss off at least 25% of the customer base. I mean, I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve been told that going to screw-caps “kills the wine experience.”
    Yeah, I hate corks too, but what is one to do when dealing with a bipolar consumer??

  • By Jeff Siegel - Reply

    Customers do what customers are taught. And they have been taught, for most of the modern American wine industry, that corks are good and everything else is bad. Change that approach, and customer philosophies will change
    I do wine tastings and I’ll bring a screwcap, and everyone makes the same jokes — still. And this is a decade after New Zealand and Randall Grahm switched to screwcaps. I know one major, huge multi-national producer that won’t use screwcaps because it is terrified that it will be made fun of.
    I don’t care what closure the wine business uses. Find one that works, and tell people that it is the best closure available. Don’t use the closure to market the wine for the experience.

  • By Bobby Cox - Reply

    Love your name Priorat! Corks are a pain because they are barrier between my efforts and the consumer. want some Carignan this vintage

  • By Linda - Reply

    They, whoever “they” is, say “only” 5% of wine is corked. Yet I’ve encountered it, to varying degrees, way more than that. And yes, the most whole hearted disappointing thing is looking forward to enjoying a wine and having that pleasure dashed–usually at an hour too late to go to the liquor store and exchange the bottle. I had one bottle corked, returned it before the store closed, and when they exchanged the bottle I asked them to open it first. Turned out the entire case was corked! Another instance I had a merlot brand that I usually love slightly corked. In fact, if I didn’t know the wine well I may not have picked up that it was corked. Left it out for a couple of hours then it became overwhelmingly apparent it was corked. Had it happen in a bar too. When brought a second bottle I was smart enough to have the bartender take a sip first. The second bottle, like the first, was corked. Another instance where the whole case was probably destroyed. Love screw caps.

  • By Jeff Siegel - Reply

    The irony about about all of this is that “they”, in large part, is the cork industry. It’s the industry’s studies that have identified the 5 percent number (though some studies, some more scientific than others, put the figure closer to 10 percent). Like I said, I don’t care what closure is used. Just close the bottle so the wine won’t go off.

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