To Cork or Not To Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle
In Judgment of Paris, George M. Taber masterfully chronicled the historic 1976 wine tasting when unknown California wines defeated top French ones, marking a major turning point in wine history. Now he explores the most controversial topic in the world of wine: What product should be used to seal a bottle? Should it be cork, plastic, glass, a screwcap, or some other type of closure still to be invented?
For nearly four centuries virtually every bottle of wine had a cork in it. But starting in the 1970s, a revolution began to topple the cork monopoly. In recent years, the rebellion has been gathering strength. Belatedly, the cork industry began fighting back, while trying to retain its predominant position. Each year 20 billion closures go onto wine bottles, and, increasingly, they are not corks.
The cause of the onslaught against cork is an obscure chemical compound known as TCA. In amounts as low as several parts per trillion, the compound can make a $400 bottle of wine smell like wet newspaper and taste equally bad. Such wine is said to be "corked." While cork's enemies urge people to throw off the old and embrace new closures, millions of wine drinkers around the world are still in love with the romance of the cork and the ceremony of opening a bottle.
With a thorough command of history, science, winemaking, and marketing, Taber examines all sides of the debate. Along the way, he collects a host of great characters and pivotal moments in the production, storage, and consumption of wine, and paints a truly satisfying portrait of a wholly intriguing controversy. As Australian winemaker Brian Croser describes it: "It's scary how passionate people can be on this topic. Prejudice and extreme positions have taken over, and science has often gone out the window."
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Page 2 - I no sooner discern'd these (which were indeed the first microscopical pores I ever saw, and perhaps, that were ever seen, for I had not met with any Writer or Person, that had made any mention of them before this) but me thought I had with the discovery of them, presently hinted to me the true and intelligible reason of all the Phaenomena of Cork; As, First, if I enquir'd why it was so exceeding light a body?
Page 2 - Plate, because it was it self a white body, and casting the light on it with a deep plano-convex Glass, I could exceeding plainly perceive it to be all perforated and porous, much like a Honey-comb, but that the pores of it were not regular ; yet it was not unlike a Honeycomb in these particulars.
Page 4 - The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learned to cultivate the olive and the vine.