Science!: TCB with TCA

10 April 2009
By Tom Mansell

For this entry, I figured it would be easier to just make a video.

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Some notes:

2,4,6-trichloroanisole, the main offender in cork taint

2,4,6-trichloroanisole, the main offender in cork taint

Polyethylene, the polymer that makes up plastic wrap

Polyethylene, the polymer that makes up plastic wrap

Cork taint is caused by accumulation of a molecule called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) in wines. It makes the wine smell like an old basement. Musty, cardboard, soil, moldy. It’s generally believed that chlorine used in winery/cork sanitation can combine with phenolic groups to form chlorophenols. Chlorophenols are very toxic to things like microbes which might be growing on a cork (or a palette or a barrel). The microbes, which would prefer to stay alive, will detoxify the chemical by O-methylation of the phenol, producing TCA and other analagous compounds.

I should point out that I didn’t really observe any plastic-like flavors or aromas in the wine. With shorter contact, you can probably minimize any off-aromas while still extracting the TCA.

Cheers!

Plastic wrap can make a decorative and shiny addition to any decanter or glass

Refs: Simpson and Sefton, “Origin and fate of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole in
cork bark and wine corks”, Aus. J. Grape and Wine Research, 2007

NYT article mentioning plastic wrap as treatment for cork taint

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0 Responses to Science!: TCB with TCA

  1. David on 10 April 2009 at 10:20 am

    That’s exciting!
    Also, Ka says you’re going to be on PBS one day. =)

  2. ithacork on 10 April 2009 at 4:52 pm

    i’m going to take that as a compliment. i think?

  3. Lenn Thompson on 13 April 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I’ve never done the plastic wrap thing myself, but I’ve heard that it works to strip TCA…but also other compounds.

    Would be interesting to repeat this with a clean, never-corked sample of the same wine in the mix as well!

  4. ithacork on 13 April 2009 at 4:08 pm

    i agree, lenn. the ideal experiment would be thus:

    (1) optional: question: can you tell if it’s corked? test: clean vs. corked triangle test
    (2) question: does saran wrap ameliorate TCA? test: corked vs. corked + saran
    (3) question: does saran wrap strip other flavors? test: clean vs. clean + saran
    (4) optional: question: does saran wrap bring the wine back to normal? test: clean vs. corked + saran

    plus ideally you’d get more tasters…

  5. ithacork on 13 April 2009 at 4:08 pm

    all blinded triangle tests of course.

  6. [...] have said that the variation between bottles can be tremendous. This is not only a function of the amount of cork taint present in the bottle but likely a symptom of storage conditions and the variation in closure [...]

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