Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

mardi 15 avril 2003

About a week ago, I was wondering in this column if wireless networks could lead to better wines.

Today, we'll look at another problem with wines.

You just bought an expensive bottle wine for a special occasion. But will it taste good or bad? Will it be affected by cork taint, usually caused by contaminated cork?

The Economist says that "the French (naturally) have developed a new way of eliminating cork taint."

The compound responsible for cork taint is called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA). It is created when chlorine (used for purposes such as bleaching) comes into contact with moulds in the cork. TCA, for those fortunate enough not to have come across it, tastes of wet newspaper. It is so potent that a tablespoon of it could taint an entire year's wine production in the United States, according to Christian Butzke, a former oenologist at the University of California, Davis.
In the latest attempt to do something about TCA, Sabaté Diosos, a French cork producer based in Paris, has teamed up with France's Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) to develop a system that removes the offending molecules using carbon dioxide (CO2) in a process similar to that employed to decaffeinate coffee.
If suitably heated and pressurised, CO2 becomes "supercritical." That means it is able to penetrate things in the way that a gas does, yet dissolve things in the way that a liquid does. These attributes make it ideal for removing contaminants from porous substances such as cork.

When will we see clean corks without TCA? The Economist concludes.

Sabaté Diosos is about to build a factory in Spain, which has extensive cork-oak forests, and wine bottled with laundered corks should hit the shelves early in 2005.
Which is fine for traditionalists. But there is the lingering question of whether modern bottlers might do better embracing new technology, in the way that Dom Pérignon did. Screw tops contain no cork, and thus cannot contaminate the wine with TCA. Traditionalists often react in horror to this idea. But a tradition is only an innovation that worked.

In other words, 'to cork or not to cork?', that is the question.

Source: The Economist, April 10, 2003

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