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06.25.2005

Un-Corking Wine: Technology To Save Spoiled Bottles

Even as I post this I'm shaking my head in disbelief. I haven't heard as outrageous a claim for a wine gadget since the Clef du Vin was released last Christmas. But there's someone in the UK who has apparently created a device that can eliminate the "corked" flavor from TCA spoiled wines and restore them to their former "un-corked" state.

I know. It sounds preposterous. But many bets have been lost taking odds against modern chemistry, especially when it is reported by generally reputable news sources like the Telegraph in the U.K.

Short story: After 20 years of messing about in a lab with wine, biochemist Gerard Michel, created an ionized coplymer that literally sucks out the molecules of TCA - 2,4,6-trichloroanisole that are responsible for contaminated or "corked" wines. Apparently you decant the wine, dip this little plastic thingy into the wine for anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour and then, presto! Your wine is back to its normal self.

A taste test conducted by the Telegraph with some "wine experts" in the UK yielded some fairly strong praise. Not a perfect performance by the device across all wines, but enough of a difference apparently to make people sit up in amazement, and to make several of the wines imminently drinkable again.

Read the full story here.

Comments (19)

Terry Hughes wrote:
06.25.05 at 4:20 PM

Sounds promising, just like the proposal that Mayor Bloomberg has just made to help pay for the cops' 10% pay increase. We've got this used bridge, very pretty and leading to a gentrified neighborhood in BRKLN, that's up for sale.

Rex Johnston wrote:
06.25.05 at 4:57 PM

Regarding Clef du Vin ----
I am a retired chemist who currently
makes wine as a hobby.
Saranwrap,a styrene divinyl benzene
copolymer, will remove TCA wine in just
a few seconds at a fraction of the cost. And, it's available at most grocery stores in the USA. I worked at Dow Chemical where Saranwrap was invented and it is a very polar material. TCA is also a very polar
compound and exists in wine in the parts per billion range.... the chemical mechanism is like a magnet.

I have corrected a tainted bottle by
decanting the wine into a pitcher,
wadding up a one foot piece of
Saranwrap, placing it into the wine, and stirring gently for about a minute.
Pour wine back into a clean carafe.

Rex Johnston

Alder wrote:
06.26.05 at 2:39 PM

Wow. I learn something every day. Thanks for this information. The next time I get a corked wine at home I'll try it out !!

Alvin Narsey wrote:
06.27.05 at 6:00 AM

me too! Just when you thought grapes couldn't get any more complicated!

sam wrote:
06.27.05 at 11:39 AM

Amazing
- does it have to be a particular Saranwrap brand
or will any of those clear plastic food wraps work?

Lenn wrote:
06.27.05 at 12:50 PM

Now THAT is wild. I'm almost (almost!) hoping for a corked bottle this week just so I can test this out!

If that's the case...talk about WILD.

Everyone...please post your experiences with this saran wrap technology :)

Jassmond wrote:
06.27.05 at 1:49 PM

15 corked bottles on my desk. I'm on it. Results to follow.

Terry Hughes wrote:
06.27.05 at 2:00 PM

Jassmond did you go to a corked bottle sale or something???

Steve-o wrote:
06.27.05 at 2:06 PM

Jass, how do you happen to have 15 open bottles of wine on your desk which haven't oxidized already?

Did you do a tasting of 200 bottles today?

Fatemeh wrote:
06.27.05 at 3:30 PM

I'll echo everyone else's sentiments of "WOW".

I'm not terribly sensitive to TCA, so when I do pick it up, it's really strong. I'll be glad to try this saran wrap trick!

Jassmond wrote:
06.27.05 at 4:15 PM

Steve-O,

All but one were days, if not weeks past. I tried it with two wines, 02 Mas Donis from Capcanes (opened for 2+ weeks) and 04 Portico dei Leoni Bianco from Alois Lageder that was opened at about 8pm last night.

Both were obvious TCA examples in the test glasses I poured, and the Mas Donis had oviously been open for a long while.

"Decanted" into pint glasses and used a sizable ball of wrap. Stirred for five or so minutes. Wine goes in the two more glasses. Five people were given the glasses blind.The results:

Oddly, the Mas Donis seemed brighter and less stewed fruit after the treatment. It was obviously oxidized, but a little of the mustiness had dropped away. Hmmmm....Not one of us was going to put it in our mouths, but promising. All impressions were consistent among the group.

The Portico was the same story, brighter less mustiness. The minerality of the wine I remembered from previous bottles had returned. One person said "these are not the same wine." Good god I thought, now I won't be sad 2 nights a week because I have no wine to drink. My hopes were dashed upon the rocks when I tasted it. Still dead in the mid palate with that oh so pleasant wet cardboard perfume to the top of my mouth. But wait! not only did the wine still taste corked, it tasted like plastic! Yeah! Petroleum! And, now, pouring off the last little bit that was left in the Pint glass (30 minutes total) it reeks of plastic.

Any other experiments happen yet?

Back to work.
Jassmond

boyd wrote:
06.27.05 at 6:53 PM

instead of saran-wrap try poly ethylene. Like the pastic bags that one uses to put produce in at the supermarket labeled LDPE or PE.

Terry Hughes wrote:
06.27.05 at 6:57 PM

Folks, that bridge is still up for sale.

Steve-o wrote:
06.27.05 at 7:48 PM

Jassmond -

Thanks for sharing your results! Sadly they aren't suggestive of a promising solution.

That said, next time I get a corked bottle, I'm going to give this method a try (what's the loss? I'll toss the bottle anyway!). That will eliminate some of the mish-mash that necessarily resulted in these tests: (1) the wine won't be oxidized, so the playing field will be more equalized; and (2) I will stir in the saran wrap for much less than 5 minutes - more like a minute (per the original instructions).

We'll see what we see. I expect that your results will indeed be borne out, but I want to give the method the fair shakes promised - a 'fresh' bottle (so to speak) and a little less saranwarp time. I doubt this will be the goose that laid the golden egg - I imagine the same results as your experiment...

But still, we can't exclude the possibility until conforming the conditions with the original poster's directions!

Cheers - expecting the worst, but hoping for the best!

Grace wrote:
06.28.05 at 12:01 AM

FYI - from someone that also once worked for Dow Chemical, in product development - NOT ALL PLASTIC WRAPS ARE MADE OF THE SAME MATERIAL. I have yet to test out the TCA/Saran Wrap theory, but if you want to follow the original poster's idea, use the brand, Saran PREMIUM Wrap, now made by SC Johnson Wax, who acquired DowBrands (Saran Wrap, Ziploc, etc.) from Dow Chemical in the mid to late 1990s. Saran Cling Plus is NOT made of the same polymer (nor is most other plastic wraps on the market).

The polymer used for Saran Wrap (polyvinylidene chloride) is different than most plastic wraps - Saran, used originally by the military, is impermeable to both water and oxygen, while other plastic wraps are only impermeable to water.

Alder wrote:
06.28.05 at 8:11 AM

Man, this is great. I never imagined I'd be getting materials science lessons out of this post! Thanks everyone for contributing your thoughts and expertise.

Reed Renaudin wrote:
06.28.05 at 1:23 PM

Hello Alder:

Wineries have been using Polyethylene to remove TCA for several years now with varying results. The two big issues have been: A. The polyethylene needs to be properly washed prior to use B. If the levels of cork taint are really high, it takes a sh.. load of polyethylene to removed the TCA

Alder wrote:
06.28.05 at 1:53 PM

Reed,

Thanks for the expert opinion. For those who don't know, Reed is the CEO and winemaker for X winery.

Alder

Rex Johnston wrote:
07.04.05 at 1:30 PM

Correction regarding my original post....
Regarding Magic Taste----
I am a retired chemist who currently
makes wine as a hobby.
Saran Wrap,a vinylidene chloride polymer, will remove TCA wine in just
a few seconds at a fraction of the cost. And, it's available at most grocery stores in the USA. I worked at Dow Chemical where Saran Wrap was invented and it is a very polar material. TCA is also a very polar
compound and exists in wine in the parts per billion range.... the chemical mechanism is like a magnet.

I have corrected a tainted bottle by
decanting the wine into a pitcher,
wadding up a one foot piece of
Saran Wrap, placing it into the wine, and stirring gently for about a minute.
Pour wine back into a clean carafe.

Please pay careful attention to Grace's
post above. This is the type of Saran
Wrap to which I am referring. I didn't
come up with the idea -- a wine judge
at our local competition had us use the
technique on a corked bottle during a
lunch break. The duplicate good uncoked bottle entry replaced the corked competition bottle.

It really works !

Rex Johnston

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