Fix corked wine

We’ve all been there before. Crack open the only bottle we have and it smells of wet cardboard. In other words the wine is corked which means it is contaminated with 2,4,6 trichloranisole or TCA.
This time it was the turn of my wine group finishing off an evening drinking tasting Dominique Laurent Burgundy (another post). We finished with a bottle of port and the room is packed with some of Melbourne’s top sommeliers. The port was  corked and somebody suggests that Gladwrap – Clingfilm – can solve the problem.

Sure enough a giant role comes up from the kitchen. We all rip handfuls of the stuff and shove it in our glasses already charged with port. One bright spark keeps a glass without the film so we have a control. Initially the results seem good and a discussion ensues. We all agree that the film has  removed some of the corking from the port.
Is it a chemical on the wrap? My own suggestion was that it is the electrical charge on the wrap does something.

Home to Google where I find, via Winecast which experiments with Gladwrap, this from the LA Times (registration required)

“In a glass pitcher, wad up roughly a square foot of Saran Wrap or other polyethylene plastic wrap. Pour the tainted wine over the plastic wrap in the pitcher. Expose all of the wine to the plastic wrap by gently swirling the wine in the pitcher for five or 10 minutes. The more pronounced the taint, the longer the wine should be exposed to the plastic wrap. For stubborn cases, repeat the plastic soak with a fresh wad of wrap.”

Apparently, polyethylene “absorbs TCA like a sponge”. One company is even developing Polyethylene filters to help remove TCA from wine. I also discover, via Chowhound, that TCA disappears when wine is cooked.

I can’t find anything that describes the chemistry of the process. Any ideas?

6 Responses to “Fix corked wine”

  1. Ralph

    The adding of clingfilm can have a positive effect on corked wine.
    Have tried it with some success. It may reduce the corkiness but its still exhibits the loss of fruit flavour. It will not bring back lost fruit flavour only unmask what is left. It also depends on the level of taint. If the taint is light it can be effective. But all this is still balanced against differing personal sensitivities of the oldfactory sensory bulb. Some people have little sensitivity to TCA and can unwittingly consume corked wine. Pity.
    Ralph Gray

  2. Mike

    We tried this on a tainted wine that we had opened. After an hour it had improved. We left the remainder over night. There was an improvement, so i guess time is a factor. It was a fun experiment to try!

  3. Matt

    Nice work Ed… I love a dash of science in my wine… Although really… who is that desperate to drink corked wine aside from alcos, nerd, and students ? :)

  4. Ed

    Cheers cam,
    There were some pretty spiffy noses there and it seemed to work but I think thetaint was quite mild.
    KH
    We got onto this too and there are some wine makers who seem to be able to source cork that dosn’t seem to have the problem. they say it affects about one in ten wines. Apparently it occurs in 2-3 per cent of wines with screw caps mainly because of the absense of cork. I’m no expert but there are some good articles here:
    http://www.wineanorak.com/controv.htm

  5. kitchen hand

    Now you’ve got me thinking.

    Is the lower incidence of corked wine in non-cork-stopped bottles due to the mere absence of unreliable (i.e. slightly porous) cork; or an actual positive effect of the plastic under the closure (either ‘fake’ cork or the new closures)?

  6. Cam Wheeler

    Tried this process at a dinner on a wine that was badly tainted (that the host had carried back from France to save for a special occasion). Some wine was left in the bottle and the rest went into a decanter with the glad wrap.

    After some time the host went into another room, poured two glasses and served them blind. All 10 people at the table thought the gladwrap treated wine smelled worse! Makes sense I guess since the decanted/treated sample had more air exposure, but both were still undrinkable.

    Will probably give it another go at some point, but it certainly didn’t help on this first attempt.