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Saturday Wine Tasting

12/5/2015 12:00 PM

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We found this article in Tip Hero although the original was in the Los Angeles Times.  It is a must read for anybody who has ever opened a bottle of wine and discovered it is corked.  In all honesty, we haven't had a chance to test it yet, but we find in absolutely fascinating and will surely try it on the next corked bottle.

TCA…Say it “Taint” so!

Tell me if you’ve had this problem. You buy a special bottle of wine – maybe you even spend a little bit more than you normally would – but when you get it home, it’s terrible. It smells like old gym socks, and the taste— ugh, let’s not even talk about the taste. It’s called “cork taint,” and it’s tragic. What’s a disappointed wine drinker to do except pour the bottle down the drain and grab some water instead? Well, how about trying this solution from the Los Angeles Times that promises to restore the wine to its intended glory? It works, it’s easier than you think, and it involves an unexpected tool: Saran Wrap! Yes, Saran Wrap, or any other polyethylene plastic wrap.

The Method

1.        Ball up some of the plastic wrap and place it in the bottom of pitcher.

2.        Pour the wine into the pitcher over the plastic wrap.

3.        Swirl the wine around the pitcher for 5 to 10 minutes, making sure that all of the wine is exposed to the plastic wrap. The more tainted the wine tastes, the longer it needs to be exposed to the plastic wrap.

4.        Repeat steps 1 to 3 for especially stubborn cases.

5.        Do a small taste test. If the taint is gone, decant the wine and enjoy! Be sure to throw that plastic wrap away.

Why It Works

Cork taint occurs because of a mold that can be found in the porous material of corks. This mold reacts with the chlorine-based cleaning compounds used to decontaminate most corks, which then produces a lot of trichloranisole, or TCA. TCA is what gives the wine that terrible, old-gym-sock smell and taste. The polyethylene present in most plastic wraps absorbs TCA the same way a sponge absorbs water, making plastic wrap the perfect solution to soak up the offending substances and save our wine!


Genius! Now THIS kind of chemistry I enjoy. Have you ever run into “cork taint” before? What did you do? Do you think you’ll give this method a try?  


The article below is courtesy of Karen MacNeil in The Tasting Panel, November 2014. These are great ideas and thoughts about describing wine and why it's so difficult. No one's palate is the same, and no one's past experiences that can be used to describe wine are exactly the same. What do you think? What are your thoughts of Ms. MacNeil's ideas?

"You Know What It Tastes Like...But You Just Can't Say It"

   The intersection between taste and language is muddily complex. As we've all experienced, ten people tasting the same wine will come up with ten different descriptions. This wine smells like puppy's breath...It's like the musty aroma of old women sitting in wooden church pews...The lacy negligee character is mind-blowing. (All of these are actual quotes. The single wine in question was a Pinot Noir).

   So what's going on here? Why is taste so hard to pin down? And so hard to agree on? Moreover, why do we so often have the feeling that while we know exactly what we think of wine--long a topic of scientific pursuit--has always been hampered by one simplest fact: There is no accurate, reliable language to describe wine.

   Interestingly, language does describe other things quite well. Linguists point out, for example, that we do have fairly accurate words to describe shape, size, color and spatial relationships. If I say that in front of me there's a blue square plate six inches by six inches, and on it is sitting a scoop of lemon sherbet about two inches in diameter and that one inch from the sherbet are three small 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch cubes of pineapple, you can easily and accurately visualize the dessert even if you never actually see it.

   But wine? It's another story. That's because wine is not its own inherent languate and food is. To say that a strawberry tastes strawberry-ish is sufficient. But, for most of us, to say that a Verdejo tastes like a Verdejo isn't exactly helpful.

   Faced with the lack of a universal, well-understood language to describe wine flavor, it's not surprisingly that wine and beverage pros invented their own. Metaphor is king. A wine can be like almost anything from a cathedral to a cowboy boot. Of course, you might find some descriptions a bit over-the-top (it's a precocious little wine and its femininity is alluring...). But the truth is that these creative, if idiosyncratic, attempts to describe wine do carry some meaning that can orient the taster. Most people for example, know what's meant when a wine is described as soft. Describing the wine as "soft as flannel pajamas" is just going one step further in the attempt to talk to each other about a beverage we love.

If you read last week's blog, you'll remember that this is a new series meant to be educational and help inform the novice drinker to discover products they may not yet have tried but just might grow to love. Of course, I'd like to think these tips can apply to anyone, no matter how much knowledge you have. I find myself learning something new everyday when it comes to the beverage industry!

Since we discussed wine last week, I'd like to focus on beer for this round. For the first beer edition of "If You Like This, Drink That" I think it would only be appropriate to discuss the most popular beers in America, namely beers such as Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light. The brewing industry refers to this style of beers as "American Adjunct Lagers" or "American Light Lagers." These are light bodied, pale, fizzy lagers made popular by large American breweries after prohibition. They feature low bitterness, thin malts, and moderate alcohol. To mass-produce these beers, they are typically made with cost-cutting adjunct cereal grains, like rice and corn. The light versions of these lagers feature even more of these adjunct grains, leading to an even lighter body.

So, suppose you've consumed and enjoyed these beers for years but are curious of the current surge in the popularity of craft beer and are interested in trying something new. Don't worry, we've got plenty of suggestions to help you advance your taste buds in the right direction!

A good start for the new craft beer drinker might be a Cream Ale. Cream Ales, spawned from the American light lager style, are brewed as an ale though are sometimes finished with a lager yeast or lager beer mixed in. These beers feature a pale straw to pale gold color. They are typically light bodied and have a low hop character and some malty sweetness. A couple of good examples are Sun King Sunlight Cream Ale and Sixpoint Sweet Action.

Another style that might appeal is the Munich Helles Lager. This style is similar to the Pilsner, but while Pilsners feature a spicy hop character, Munich Helles Lagers are a bit more malty and in balance with the hops featured in Pilsners. While I love Pilsners, they might have just a bit too much hop bitterness for someone coming straight from light lagers. My top two picks for this style are Weihenstephaner Original and Hofbrau Original.

As always, feel free to stop by the store and pick up a pack of these awesome beers, and we'd be happy to make even more suggestions for great new beers to try!