Do Corks Really Affect the Taste of Wine in the Aging Process?
Natural corks have long been the go-to method for sealing wine bottles, but many of today’s winemakers are choosing alternative methods in fear of the corks adversely affecting the flavour of their wines. However, this is a mistake to think this way since many wines can benefit from the cork sealing due to the fact that it allows just enough oxygen to enter the wine to assist the oxidation process during aging. It is this process the can affect the taste of wine but in a favourable manner most of the time. Let us examine this further to expand your knowledge on the topic.
A Bit of History about Cork Closures for Wine Bottles
The use of corks for a closure of wine barrels and bottles began back in the 17th century to replace the use of oil-soaked rags for this purpose. As a result, it became easier to transport the wine over long distances. Years before, though, the winemakers had already discovered that the wine changed some of its characteristics and flavour during transport. Later, winemakers realised that corks assisted in the aging process.
Corks Affect the Oxidation Process during Aging
Natural corks do not inhibit the oxidation process the way the newer closure methods do in the aging process of wines since they allow about one milligram of oxygen to enter the corked bottle during the year. Therefore, when you use natural corks, you allow the wine to develop its flavours completely while it ages. The results are a more full-flavoured wine.
Tainted Corks Can Negatively Affect the Outcome of Your Wine on Occasion
Even though it is not highly common, tainted corks can adversely affect the flavour and aroma of your wine. This occurs due to the presence of 2,4,6-tricholoroanisole or TCA, which is a potent chemical that can cause the wine to develop a musty flavour or aroma during aging. Natural corks are susceptible to interaction with this chemical due to the fact that TCA interacts with natural substances, such as cork and plant phenols. It is important to note, though, that TCA contamination can happen for other reasons than the natural corks, such as chlorine cleaning solutions and damp surfaces in the winery. Luckily, the level of cork taint is only about one to two percent out of all of the cork closures in use today.
It comes down to your personal preference on whether or not to use natural corks as your closure method. While these corks aid in the oxidation process during aging, newer closure methods cannot suffer the cork taint. You will need to decide which method accomplishes your goal with your wine in the ideal fashion.