Vintage Eve: CORK it or SCREW it

Below is the beginning, middle and end of a wine discussion, regarding tainted cork, with a marketing director at a Napa Valley winery. He graciously allowed me to quote him for readers. Keep in mind that he’s not the winemaker. And I’m sure I really don’t need to remind Wine 101 readers: I’m not the expert.

Tainted cork on one bottle or more – need info please

To Whom It May Concern,

My husband and I purchased a few bottles of your Cabernet Oakville Cuvee 2000 from the Napa winery a couple of years ago. All of the bottles have been cellared in a temperature controlled cellar and not moved. Last night when we uncorked one we were immediately hit with the unmistakable cork smell and, regrettably, taste. We are aware that this does happen and do not hold the winery responsible for this one bottle that, sadly, ended up down the drain.

What I am asking is if this will be indicative for the remaining bottles? Have you had any other reports to you on this? Is each bottle different when the same winery/vintage? Do we not serve to a party? (Although I might do it regardless to educate the guests one way or another.)

I also write a local wine column in Santa Clarita, CA. I am interested in this answer personally and professionally and would appreciate your response.


Eve Bushman

Eve’s Wine 101

—– Original Message —–

From: Ryan Keith

To: ‘Eve Bushman’

Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 9:27 AM

Subject: RE: tainted cork on one bottle or more – need info please

Since I did not have a chance to taste this particular bottle of wine in question I will not be able to give you an exact answer to question. To me, it sounds like you were an unfortunate victim to legitimate TCA Cork Taint.

From my experience, the 2000 Oakville Cuvee has never been a fruit forward style of wine, instead, it has always shown earthier, herbal characteristics of forest floor, espresso and pipe tobacco. The last time I personally tasted the wine was roughly 2 years ago and all of these notes certainly upheld the taste of that night.

So, to answer your questions below, I believe that that you had a legitimately corked bottle of wine so that bottle should not be indicative of the rest. We made roughly 1,400 cases of that wine and this is one of a very small handful of instances where cork taint has been brought up. Given a 5-10% TCA rate industry wide, I think we are doing fairly well.

My recommendation would be to open another bottle of wine. As for your question regarding opening at a dinner party, that all depends on what type of style of wine your guests like. If they are looking forward to a full throttle fruit bomb style of wine, this wine most certainly isn’t it. If they can appreciate the more rustic qualities of an earthier style of wine then this can be an interesting bottle to try.

I hope I have answered all your questions regarding the Oakville Cuvee. If you would like to call and discuss please do. I want to make sure you are happy with all you PlumpJack Wine.

Warm Regards,

Ryan Keith


PlumpJack Winery

CADE Winery

620 Oakville Cross Road

Napa Valley, CA 94558

Tel: 707.945.1220

Fax: 707.944.0744


Okay. Several things stick here. It sounds like the vintage of PlumpJack we had experienced cork taint with was also reported by others; but no expectation from the winery that it would happen again. So we did bring another bottle of it to a dinner with wine friends and related the experience. Upon corking I was pleased that this indeed was a taint-free bottle and had no trouble serving or drinking it. So once piece of cork does not one entire vintage taint.

Now as far as his tasting notes; there we all differed. “Earthy… forest floor, espresso and pipe tobacco” all sounded like dirt and therefore preparation for another bad cork. Or maybe his tasting notes were just an innocuous suggestion that just sounded like he might be preparing us for a taste we just weren’t expecting. (Maybe even going so far as suggesting we wouldn’t know cork taint from dry rot? I wasn’t sure.)

I didn’t take up the debate in a return e-mail. Suffice to say we drank it and liked it. Finding it indicative of a normal California Cabernet. No burnt dung/ tainted cork detected. It was truly a different experience!

So what do we do about spending over $50 on a California Cabernet that is “Given a 5-10% TCA rate industry wide”? Buy screw cap. These are some we like: Screw Kappa Napa – any varietal, Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, Kim Crawford’s Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, Shoofly Shiraz only, Yalumba (any red), Bonny Doon Le Cigare, Babich Sauvignon Blanc and Green Point Shiraz.

Those that would like to read what the experts have to say try this article:,1197,3568,00.html and see for the most comprehensive list of screw capped wines I’ve ever seen. Some of which, lucky for us – and you, were available at Bev Mo’s last nickel sale.

So instead of taking a $50 chance on cork, with a 5-10% chance of downage in the sinkage, now is the time to try more screw caps.

Lastly if you are still using cork to keep your unfinished bottle for another day – that was never a great idea. Cork or screw top, as soon as it’s open and breathing the taste will begin to be compromised. Invest in whatever system you can manage, I like the air sucking thingamajiggy –vacuum pump (–vacuum-pump-stoppers.htm). And finish your bottle within a couple of days unless you just want to use it for cooking.


  1. Anonymous says

    Chef Mike Says:

    Plumpjack Wines has a large portion of their Cabs and Syrahs done with Screwcaps…

    Many High End Aussie and New Zealand Wines now come with Screwcaps: For instance – All of the Mollydooker wines, All of the Oliver Hill wines, All of the Amsfield wines, and many of the D'Arnberg wines (Including the Dead Arm and Laughing Magpie) feature Screwcaps…. :)

  2. Rusty Sly says


    Remember my article on TCA. Cork may be the primary cause of TCA in wines (corked) but it is not the only process. In my article on Corked wines, I I stated that the battle of removing TCA from the wines that we love will involve many studies and changes. I am not sure if we will ever totally eliminate it as even bottles that have screw caps can have TCA as a result of the process and environment that it was exposed to. The scope is much larger than just Cork to eliminate TCA.

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