Monthly Archives: February 2011

“Corked” Fruits and Vegetables!

There’s been a fun discussion going on in the Snooth forum that’s sort of related to yesterday’s post on cork taint. We’ve been talking about “corked” produce. Have you ever had a banana or a carrot that isn’t moldy but has the moldy, TCA character? I have, and it turns out lots of other people have, too. Carrots seems to be the biggest offenders.

Of course, cork is wood (it’s the bark of the cork-oak tree: Quercus Suber). It turns out that other wood surfaces like wooden picking or shipping boxes and oak barrels can impart TCA to your fresh fruit or vegetables! This was confirmed for me when I met with the lab crew at the winery where I worked regarding tainted tasting samples. the reply to my inquiry was “Absolutely, TCA can turn up in fruits and vegetables.” Nice to know I’m not completely nuts (I wonder if nuts can have it 😉 As with wine, it’s not harmful, but it’s not very tasty, either!

Had some “corked” blueberrries a few days ago – very disappointing! Anybody out there had a similar experience?

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What is “Corked” Wine?

Question from Bill: Hi! What is corked wine?

Reply: Hi, Bill. Thanks for writing! With the popularity of plastic corks and screw caps you might well think that when someone says “This wine is corked” it means that it has a real cork in it! But, no…

When the wine is “corked” it means that it’s got a dank, moldy aroma like a stack of wet newspapers or a damp basement. Yuck! Fortunately, it’s not harmful. Unfortunately, it stinks! At low levels it dulls the fruit character. At high levels it’s extremely offensive! And, human detection is measured in the parts per trillion – this is potent stuff! If you hear a reference to “cork taint”, its the same thing.

There are other sources, but the most common reason for this off character is a compound called 2,4,6 tricholoranisole (TCA for short). We now know that TCA can come from other wooden surfaces (natural cork is bark of the cork-oak tree)  like a barrel or a picking box. Wineries have been known to remodel if they have any wooden surfaces in the actual production area because if you get the right naturally-occurring airborne fungi together with chlorine (very common in wineries; in the past they used chlorine to purify natural cork, but that’s been replaced by hydrogen peroxide) it’s a nice recipe for producing TCA. Continue reading

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Ingredient Labeling for Wine?

How do you feel about it? It began with the “contains sulfites” warning in 1987. Now, there’s a push to expand upon ingredient labeling. In this article by Rose O’Dell King she comes out in favor of ingredient labeling with allergic reactions in mind.

This isn’t as simple as it seems, at a glance. The top things advocates of ingredient labeleing point to are usually fining agents like egg white, milk or isinglass (sturgeon bladder). The thing is, these aren’t considered ingredients by winemakers. They’re tools.

Here’s how it works: when the wine is hazy or too tannic – whatever the issue – there’s a long-standing practice of adding a fining agent. It’s often a protein. This agent combines with the substance in the wine that’s causing the problem and they settle to the bottom of the barrel or tank together. A few weeks later the winemaker siphons the wine out, leaving a little wine and the fining agent behind, in the bottom. Continue reading

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What About Sulfites in Wine?

Question from Michael: You said organic wine doesn’t have added sulfites. Why does wine have sulfites anyway?

Reply: Hi, Michael. Thanks for writing! The post on organic wine brought up a lot of questions about sulfites. Maybe it’s not the tastiest subject, but let’s take a look.

Lots of people have the impression that adding sulfites is a recent practice, initiated by American producers. But, it’s the labeling laws that are new – not the sulfites. And, many believe that the Europeans don’t add sulfites because for a long time when you went to France or Italy on vacation you didn’t see the sulfite warning like you did here at home. But, European laws have finally caught up with America.

Adding sulfur to wine and food as an anti-oxidant and anti-microbial goes back for centuries. Even the Romans were said to use sulfur to seal their barrels and jugs. So, it’s a preservative. Continue reading

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Wine Trivia du Jour: Rosé Champagne

Did you know that it’s not just the bubbles that make rosé Champagne different from other rosé wines? The vast majority of pink wines in the world are made by getting just a blush of color out of a dark-skinned grape, such as Zinfandel or Grenache (the juice is clear regardless of the skin color), and thereafter making it pretty much the same way as fruity white wine is made. Cold fermentation, pass on barrel aging.

However – the tradition for bubbly wine is to mix a little red wine – classically, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier (a clone of Pinot Noir) – with white wine that’s traditionally  made of Chardonnay. When I say “classically” or “traditionally”, I’m referring to the practices in the Champagne region since that’s the benchmark. Once this cuvée, or blend, is made they set about making it fizz!

Seems like a great time to talk about this because Rosé Champagne isn’t just a good match for Valentine’s Day in terms of color. It has to be the most romantic wine around – don’t you agree?? Oh, heck – the most romantic beverage around!

We’re all counting our pennies these days and I want you to know that purchasing the most romantic beverage around doesn’t have to break the bank. You can buy a perfectly lovely pink Cava (Spanish bubbly) for under $12.00! Or you can go all out and serve a Cristal vintage rosé priced at nearly $500.00, which is completely outrageous unless someone else is buying 😉 And, of course, there are scads of wines in between. 

So –  you’ve got plenty of time to shop before V-day! Get to work!

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Wine Trivia du Jour: Champagne and Popcorn!

When you make that bowl of popcorn for the game today, remember that Champagne or sparkling wine makes the very best pairing! You can form a “more perfect union” by sprinkling a litte truffle salt on that popcorn! Cheers!

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Great Recipes for Zin!

Well, the ZAP Grand Tasting may be a deliriously happy, fuzzy memory by now, but the website carries on! Here are some really great recipes to pair with your favorite Zin, courtesy of ZAP (gotta have those Tortellini Porcine)! Cheers!

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