Sunday, June 07, 2009

It Comes in Waves

We had quite a streak, and I guess I shouldn't complain. For several months, BrooklynLady and I enjoyed opening our wine with dinner without running into a corked bottle. The generally accepted odds say that about 1 in 9 bottles of white wine will be corked, and about 1 in 10 bottles of red. So yes, we had been beating the odds for a while now. Funny, I used to think that I couldn't pick out a corked bottle. Now I know that I actually am quite sensitive to it. Sometimes I am underconfident about it though, and I have to let the wine sit for 15 minutes and try it again to make sure.

Anyway, our good luck ran out three weeks ago and we are mired in an extraordinary slump.It's getting to the point where I'm afraid to open wine - everything is corked. So no special wine lately, nothing from the cellar, only wine that is still on retail shelves so I can return it if (when) it is corked. You can't return a corked wine that you purchased more than a year or so ago, can you?

It started with Pierre Gonon's Vin de Pays de l'Ardèche Les Iles Feray in late May, and this was the first bottle in so long that I argued with myself for a while before accepting the truth. And the flood gates opened and a week later we had corked Shinn Rosé, and five days later it was corked Qupé Roussanne.

Tonight, merely two days after the corked Qupé, some friends invited us for a quintessential summer dinner of burgers off the grill. This guy likes Bordeaux, so I brought a wine I thought he would enjoy, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from Provence, a naturally made wine with beautiful aromatics and a real sense of place, the 2000 Domaine du Deffends Côteaux Varois Clos de la Truffière. I had it bagged so everyone could taste it blind and enjoy it without preconceptions - it should have been great with burgers and vinegary salad. But it was ferociously corked. And I hadn't brought a second bottle. Lame, lame, lame.

Is this my destiny for the nest two months? Loads of corked wine? And what are the rules, anyway, for wine that I've cellared if it's corked? Are there due process rules that I have to respect regarding the retailer? One day I'm going to open some fancy bottle of Burgundy that I've nurtured for 12 years in the cellar, something of which I could afford to buy only one single bottle...and it will be corked. And then, my friends, you will hear the sound of Brooklynguy yelling.


Weston said...

I read that if you poured it into a bowl with Saran Wrap (Plastic Wrap) that the cork molecules cling to it...Worth a try, better then dumping a bottle down the drain.

I still have no ran into a cork bottle I have heard that cork wine is under 1%

Samantha Dugan said...

I've tried the Saran thing...does not work. It may lessen the taint, but it is still tainted and if you are like me, even a little renders the wine undrinkable.

I agree that it seems to happen in waves and when I am being crashed upon over and over again, I find myself grabbing bottles that have stelvin or sythentic closures, at least long enough for me to come up for air. Worst one...1990 Comte Vogue Bonnes Mares, sigh.

David McDuff said...

I don't remember encountering stats that suggest a higher probability of cork taint with whites than reds, Neil. Is that based on your own experiences or is there some research out there I've missed?

Also, while 12 years would certainly be pushing things, there's no hard and fast-written rule that says wines can't be returned after a year. Given that the same wine is unlikely to be abailable, you'd be most likely to receive a credit or refund (if anything at all). Practices, of course, will vary from retailer to retailer but it can never hurt to try.

Director, Lab Outreach said...

The Saran Wrap thing does work, but you have to use the right kind because not all cling wraps are made with the same polymers (see below) and the results are rarely spectacular.

After all, TCA is something that causes problems at something like 9 parts per trillion -- depending on your level of sensitivity -- so if you have a badly corked wine that's a lot of TCA to "polymerize" out of solution.

I also suspect that either the long-term effect of TCA, or the short-term effect of stirring plastic wrap in your wine, does something not totally positive to other flavor compounds. A couple times where I've been present when the saran wrap trick has actually worked, the wine still seemed damaged, in a way that you might describe as a loss of vitality.

Was trying to remember the parts per trillion that TCA becomes generally recognizable (every one has a different sensitivity threshold) and Google turned up a discussion on Vinography from a few years back that includes some comments from people who know a lot about Saran Wrap:


peter said...

The saran wrap thing does seem to make a difference, but not enough. We tried to rescue a badly corked 1989 Mont-Redon CDP recently and it failed to render it at all drinkable.

2 weeks ago I brought a 1999 Brunello to a BBQ at a sommelier's house. It was corked, and everyone there- they were all French- laughed at me.

RougeAndBlanc said...

Call me crazy! If I open an expansive or aged bottle of corked wine, I just yell some expletives and drink it. With cooked or oxydized wine, that is a totally different matter.

CoachT said...

I was at the local wine shop the other day and watched a fellow try to return a bottle of corked '99 Volnay. I certainly don't have the juevos for that sort of thing. It's all part of the heartbreak and joy of wine. It's horrible when it's a string of heartbreak, but we all roll the dice...

onno david said...

I agree that it seems to happen in waves. Good god, what a day you've had!! Wrap yourself up in the coziest sweater, make a cup of tea and try to just relax for the rest of the night. It's got to get better tomorrow. Keeping you all in my thoughts. Running out of strong is easy to do in such difficult times, but both you and Sunny seem to do a remarkable job of avoiding that most of the time. thank you for sharing your post.