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Cork Taint and Brettanomyces.  Add/Read Comments



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Interesting article by Tim Atkin in the latest issue of trade paper OLN. As they do not have a website and the paper does not have huge circulation I thought that paraphrasing his thoughts here would be of interest.

Atkin writes about a recent tasting that looked at the different taints that effect wine. Organised by cork producer Amorim and conducted by Pascal Chatonnet, 'best known as one of the world's leading authorities on the spoilage yeast, brettanomyces' the thrust is that 'cork has taken a bad rap, and that it's sometimes blamed for faults that are misidentified as TCA even by comparatively experienced tasters.'

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While I can spot a corked wine at 50 paces I for one was unaware that there was more to TCA than, well, just TCA. And did you know that TCA in sparkling wine is easier to identify because the carbon dioxide helps to volatise the compound?

For those not that well versed in the technical side of wine TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) is what produces a 'corked' wine giving musty and other off odours which, generally, make a wine undrinkable. Chatonnet claimed that TCA is sometimes present in the winery and may taint a wine long before it comes into contact with a cork but he did concede that 'most TCA is still cork-derived'.

Atkins tasting continued with wines doctored with TBA (2,4,6-tribromoanisole) and TeCA (2,3,4,6-tetrachloroanisol) both of which come from 'environmental contamination' from such things as wood preservatives, fire retardants or pesticide residues rather than corks. 'And both smelt distinctly mouldy. That's why it is possible to find something that smells like TCA in a bottle under screwcap'

The other faults included methoxyprazines (green pepper smell), acetic acid (vinegar), ethyl acetate (solvent) and pelargonium (that nasty geranium odour that occurs when sorbic acid is broken down by lactic acid bacteria). Brett (brettanomyces) provides aromas ranging from barnyards and horsehair to sticking plaster and mousiness. Chatonnet reckons that the Brett problem, (often confused with terroir), is on the rise 'with the growing fashion for high alcohol, low acid, unfiltered, low sulphur reds in the New World' becoming a huge problem there.

Atkins concludes 'if things continue as they are, Brett could take over from TCA as the taint du jour. If it does, I can't see the cork industry complaining'.

You can read more on TCA at http://www.winepros.org/wine101/tca.htm and on Brett at http://www.aromadictionary.com/articles/brettanomyces_article.html
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