One “Corked” Bottle is One Bottle Too Many


A great way to use up all those old corks

So I’ve been ranting lately about the whole “corks vs screw caps” debate. Actually, it’s not a debate: there’s just a surprisingly large segment of the wine-buying public who wouldn’t buy a screw-cap wine if it contained The Nectar of the Gods, Droplets from the Fountain of Youth, or Liquid Gold. They don’t want to hear why some wineries have gone to screw caps, or even what’s in it for them. They just say (typically with their arms crossed in the most stereotypical “don’t mess with me” body language), “I don’t drink screw cap wine.”

Well, bully for them. I’ve explained in two YouTube videos why we should accept screw caps as the way of the future in the wine biz. (go to Corks vs Screw Caps and Screw Caps on Wine:Get Over It). Without waltzing you through all those arguments again, I’ll just summarize by saying, Corks can mess up your wine, and screw caps prevent that. It’s that simple.

So here’s the latest in the Cork Wars: I was talking recently to the sales manager of a California winery that sells wine in the U.S. and abroad, and is owned by a Big Name in the business. I asked him if they’ve considered using screw caps, and he said they didn’t really need to, because they’ve worked out a process that practically eliminates contaminated corks. It seems bleach was often used in the bottling line’s sterilization process, and the bleach reacted with the cork to produce the chemical called TCA that tainted the cork and, subsequently, the wine enclosed by that cork. The result of the contamination was wine that smelled like a wet basement, and tasted dead and musty.

As Mr. Sales Manager was explaining this to me, he opened a bottle of California Grenache for us to taste. He poured it into my glass first, and what do you think I smelled when I stuck my nose in it? I didn’t smell fruit, or oak, or spice — I smelled wet basement! His bottle was undeniably “corked.”

Now, I don’t want to be an “I Told You So”. But I’ve been championing screw caps bottles because, by the cork industry’s own estimate, fully 5% of corks become contaminated and ruin the wine they’re supposed to be protecting. National Sales Guy told me they’ve reduced that percentage substantially. Well, he had five bottles for me to taste that day. If one of five was corked, that’s a whopping 20%. Now I may be manipulating the figures to my own advantage, but the point is still this: one corked bottle is one bottle too many.

If you’re not convinced by the practical arguments, think about the economic implications. In the average wine store (like mine) or the average restaurant, there may be 5,000 bottles on hand at any given time. Using a conservative 3% for the contamination rate, that’s 150 bad bottles that will leave the store. You might even be the bearer, and imagine that you’re popping this cork for an anniversary celebration, an elegant dinner party, or any other excuse to enjoy fine wine. When you get a load of that bad bottle, you’ll be MAD. You may not know why you hate it, because many wine drinkers aren’t knowledgeable enough to know about the cork problem. But you’ll be mad about being stuck with a nasty bottle. You’ll probably never buy that winery’s product again, and may not even go back to that shop or restaurant. Or if you do realize the bottle is corked, and return the bottle to the establishment where you bought it (as you should), the shop will have to return it for credit to the distributor, who returns it for credit to the winery, who goes, “Holy Cow, these corks are costing us some dough.”

So do yourselves a favor: open your mind to the new world of screw caps. Consider that the ritual of opening a bottle may not be as important as the ritual of enjoying a good bottle. Remember this (and please pass it on to your wine-drinking friends — one corked bottle really is one bottle too many. Cheers!

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7 Responses to “One “Corked” Bottle is One Bottle Too Many”

  • Hello Great Job. I think you made some great points in your points and I am goign to do some follow up research topic related and learn more.

  • Debbie, you said that the use of bleach on the bottling line of the Californian winery was the cause of the TCA. So, in this instance, it was a quality control issue at the winery. Cork manufacturers stopped using bleach in their manufacturing processes more than a decade ago as part of the steps taken to reduce the incidence of TCA. Most wineries are well aware that bleach can be a precursor to TCA and do not use chlorine-based cleaning products in the winery. Winemakers worldwide are also aware of the progress the cork industry has made in the battle against TCA and of the significant improvement in cork’s performance as a wine closure. This is best reflected in the wine faults analysis conducted at major international wine shows which, in recent years, have shown the incidence of cork-related taint to be less than 1 per cent. It is also reflected in the fact that of the ‘Top 100’ selling wine brands in the US today, more than 70 per cent are sealed with natural cork. If you would like to learn more about cork as a wine seal visit
    Verity (on behalf of Amorim)

    • Thanks for your reply. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information on the cork issue. It was a Sonoma County winery rep who told me about the bottling line issue, and he explained they’d changed their processes to avoid the problem. But as I said in my article, he then opened a bottle that was undeniably corked. Bad timing…
      I’ll certainly go to your website for more information, but in the meantime, please tell me what you think about an “anti-cork” write-up on A to Z Wineworks’ site (an Oregon winery): go to
      Thanks again for your input!

  • With all the doggone snow we have gotten recently I am stuck indoors, fortunately there is the internet, thanks for giving me something to do. :)

  • I seriously like your post. I found it extremely usefull. I should visit your site again some day.

  • BGAN:

    Great post, Thank You.

  • Hey, great article. Stouts, Lagers, Brown Ales… I absolutely love it all! The good kinds are delicious and they don’t need more than just a few to enjoy. The hangovers could be better, so I like to use these hangover remedies to help – check them out! Anyhow… slick site… I’m subscribed to your feed now so I’ll check in more often!

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