Hall of shame (cork problems in 2015)

I have kept a tally of wines opened and any problems for several years (see the page on corks and statistics).  I have counted only my own wines, not wines from functions where I cannot be certain of “discards” before they were served. I have also excluded from my tally any wine likely to be too old, nor have I included faults such as Brett.

The faults included are TCA (“corked”) and oxidation (bruised apple, or madeirisation). I don’t claim that I am particularly observant or overly sensitive to these issues; I have probably been lenient.

I have found no problems with any wines I have opened under diam, screwcap or crown seal – except for one diam line viewed as a fault at bottling or in preparation for bottling. One further (cork-sealed) wine was excluded as  I assessed the problem was heat damage in transport or storage (an auction purchase).

No producer sets out to make wines that may fail due to their closure; however, it is the problem of the consumer to attempt to gain a refund or recompense for wines that may have been treasured for years. Some customers no doubt try to abuse this, but often return and checking procedures are overly onerous (or non-existent) often merely to obtain a replacement with a “current vintage”.

Here is the list of problem wines in 2015, and the outcome

  • Domaine Stirn (alsace) 2005 Pinot Gris Sonnenglanz  – oxidised
  • Tardieu Laurent (N Rhone) 1999 Hermitage – TCA
  • Louis Sipp (Alsace) 2004 Riesling Osterberg – oxidised
  • JL Chave (n Rhone) 1995 Marsanne – oxidised
  • Veuve Clicquot (Champagne) 2004 – TCA – replaced by vendor
  • F Gueguen (Chablis) 2007 Bourgros – oxidised– credited by importer
  • Craiglee (Sunbury) NV Sparkling red – TCA – replaced by winery
  • Kreglinger (Tasmania) 2005 sparkling– TCA – replaced by distributor
  • Domaine Stirn (Alsace) 2007 Riesling Brand – TCA

The “headline number” for 2015 is 7.44% problems with wines with a cork seal – which continues to be well above industry claims of 2-5% – in itself still a dreadful indictment.  Even more personally distressing is the disproportionate number, and percentage of problems with imported wines.

Importers could perform a useful role by encouraging their producers to move to screwcap (or diam), and could easily publicise which product lines have this benefit.  This simple step would – at least- encourage me to purchase more Champagne (where the cork is concealed by the foil).

Tyson Stelzer’s latest Champagne Guide 2016-2017 thankfully includes some information on producers using diam. Tyson believes cork taint is a small problem in Champagne – but oxidation is the main issue.

Importers should also have a simple return and replacement policy – I have been met by the extraordinary comment “our margins don’t allow for replacements”.

Consumers should try to keep bottle and contents, plus the cork, and be vigorous about trying to obtain replacement – as should be their right.

I hope for many less cork problems in 2016, and wish my readers well. I hope that some of my reviews have encouraged greater consumption and experimentation with off-dry and sweet wines.


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