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Amorim spruiks new TCA detecting technology

corks

The world’s biggest wine cork producer, Amorim, cranked up the PR mill last week to announce a new cork. The headline read: “NDtech – the world’s best wine stopper just got better”.

The Portuguese company is spruiking NDtech as a technical innovation which enables individual screening of every natural wine cork, “to deliver a non-detectable TCA (trichloroanisole) guarantee”. Amorim mentions our own Australian Wine Research Institute as lending its weight to the product.

A reasonable interpretation of this boast is that they’re not claiming to have eradicated TCA, but are claiming any TCA taint is below the human threshold. Fine, except that we’ve known for ages that even at below-threshold levels, TCA can damage a wine’s aroma and flavour. It’s a bit like a car manufacturer admitting its new model has a faulty steering mechanism, but it’s so minor that you won’t notice it.

Also, TCA is just one of several chemical compounds known to taint wine corks. What about the others?

Finally, the press release quotes Amorim’s research and development director, Dr Miguel Cabral, thus:

“Now we can examine an individual cork using sophisticated gas chromatography in just seconds, making the technology practical on a major industrial scale”.

Assuming the minimum screening time per cork is at least two seconds, and taking Amorim’s admission that they sell 4.2 billion corks a year, if they applied the new technique to every cork they make in a year, it would take 97,222 days. That’s 266 years.

Yes, they surely have more than one screening machine on the job, but how many gas chromatographs would you need to screen all those corks?

Somehow, I can’t see it taking off. A screw-cap would be so much simpler. In fact, why doesn’t Amorim see itself as being in the wine closure industry, instead of the cork industry? They should start making screw-caps. Cork is a dinosaur.

A friend points out that history is littered with companies that didn’t change to suit the times. Woollen mills that made only blankets went out of business when the doona came along. If they’d gone into the doona business they might still be around.

4 thoughts on “Amorim spruiks new TCA detecting technology”

  1. andrew smith says:

    I’ll use a natural fork when Hell freezes over

  2. Huon Hooke
    Huon Hooke says:

    Andrew, is that a clever contraction of “f…ing cork” or just a slip of the finger?

  3. mountainstirrer says:

    Julian Castagna via Milton Wordley
    “Wine is more than a commodity. For us, people who work in wine, closures are simply that, a way of sealing a bottle, but for many of our customers they are a joyful process to opening a bottle.

    The process is part of a tradition, it is part of the process of enjoyment. It is part of a culture of wine.

    It may change in time but at the moment for me cork is best… I have no problem with what screw-cap does technically – the problem I have is that it takes away the process. It takes away the theatre, it turns wine into a beverage. It’s akin to taking a stroll through a forest as opposed to driving, one is much quicker and easier, but nowhere near as rewarding.

    So I went to the best solution that we could come up with and that was DIAM. We went to DIAM in 2003. Prior to that I was using corks that were costing us $1.60 to $1.80 each – hand selected, they were the best corks I could buy, and yet I was still losing 5 %.

    Since we have gone to DIAM I have not lost one bottle.

  4. John Hancock says:

    Even if Amorin are able to guarantee 100% TCA/cork taint free, they have missed the point, or unable to do anything about the real issue with corks. That is the unavoidable variation between corks. Every cork, being a natural product of bark from a tree in a forest, is different. Therefore, every bottle closed with cork is eventually is going to be different. All you have to do is place 20 new corks in 20 tasting glasses containing water, to see how the extractable matter from corks varies massively from cork to cork even after just a few hours. I don’t see how they can fix that issue.

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