When the topic of natural cork is raised, frequently the question “what about cork taint (TCA)?”, often follows. We asked our Monte Bello Winemaker, Eric Baugher, that very question.
Since my time at Ridge, we have managed to keep our TCA (Trichloroanisole) occurrence to a minimum by working closely with suppliers with known quality and best quality control in their processes. We have also maintained diversity among our suppliers and cork lots purchased. This allows us to reduce risk that any given wine be affected by a cork lot that has contamination of TCA. Before we purchase, these suppliers will send me samples of potential lots for sensory evaluation. The lots are submitted in two forms, uncoated and coated. This allows me to soak the lots in chardonnay and extract flavors of the raw cork and separately those of the coating material. These samples are lined up in flights and blind tasted. Those that pass the first round of sensory proceed to a second round on a separate day with fresh corks from the same lots. This second tasting allows us to confirm the quality and to catch TCA that I might not have tasted on the first day. Once the corks are selected and a purchase made, the supplier will fire brand vintage and apply the final coating. The finished corks are shipped fresh, just a week or so ahead of bottling. Once delivered to the winery, another random sample of corks will be collected and sensory repeated. This give us one final check of quality to confirm the corks received and ready for use are free of TCA.
Beginning with 2015 Monte Bello and moving forward with all the wines bottled since the fall of 2017, every cork is being screened by an electronic detection device. These specialized instruments are capable of detecting TCA. The corks with more than 1 part-per-trillion is sorted out by the machinery. This sorting system used by Portocork, called “ICON”, adds an additional cost to the corks we purchase. We use two levels of top grade corks, extra select for the majority of wines and Flor for Monte Bello and all other bordeaux lots. The more expensive the cork, the more visually sorted, selected, and tested for TCA. The corks used for Monte Bello receive the highest level of screening and sorting.
COO & Monte Bello Winemaker