Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Poor Cork/Screwcap Article

I found an old copy of Quarterly Review of Wines, Winter 2010/2011 recently.  At the end, an article called Cork Screwed appears, written by Al Vuona, Jr.  He has been published in the magazine before and hosts a show on public radio in Massachusetts.  I can not find a copy online and the publication has since gone out of business but the article is a great place to start a series of cork/screwcap posts.
His opinion is stated clearly at the outset, he is against screw caps.  Fine, no problem.  I take issue with his arguments in support of his position.  
Mr. Vuona states that only a small amount of bottles sealed with corks are tainted.  If we take his number of bottles produced each year (20 billion) and even take the very low end of cork taint percentage we're still left with a staggering number, 200 million by my math.  [Cork taint occurs in approximately 2-5% of wines, a recent study puts it as low as 1% so that's what I used].  He writes this huge volume of sullied wine off as "a bad day."  Using this overly conservative number results in enough bottles over the course of one year to nearly equal the entire production of New Zealand !  I view that as significant.  
He laments the loss of tradition and fears obsolescence for his corkscrew.  Understood.  Cork will never go away entirely, certainly not in our lifetimes.  I like it too, except when it ruins a wine.
The loss of popping corks on New Year's Eve also troubles him.  I'll overlook that opening a sparkling wine properly results in no pop and simply mention never seeing serious sparkling wines sealed with screwcaps.  
So far, these are quibbles of approach and agenda.  However, he crosses the line later.  "They [corks] allow oxygen to interact with the wine thus preventing cork taint."
When published wine writers misinform the public, someone needs to step up and point it out. Loudly.  If his premise had any merit whatsoever, we would never have a corked wine.  A man who purports to know something about wine should know better. Shame on QRW for publishing this obviously inaccurate statement.  Perhaps errors like this contributed to their demise.  
As to which is "better" I'll leave that for another day.  A detailed report on a large cork versus screwcap tasting will be reported here next. 

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