“A brief ode to corks”


Wednesday afternoon, I swung by a wine shop on my way home, and had a quick flight. The third of four wines was, from the nose, the victim of TCA, or a compound known as Trichloroanisole. In simpler terms, it was “corked” and gave off a musty scent, much like damp cardboard. This is a common wine flaw, and frankly not a big deal. I don’t know of a reputable wine shop that won’t take back a bottle of corked wine — most recently I returned a rather pricey bottle to Trader Joe’s without any hassle. And yesterday, it was as simple as pointing it out; I watched the bottle dumped, a new one opened, and my glass was refilled with wine unflawed by TCA. Easy-peasy.

Tonight, however, I started pondering corks a little bit. The truth is, I love them, and very occasional TCA is a small price to pay for their benefits. The most obvious, of course, is as a bottle stopper, a job they do well. I recently blogged about my disdain for breaking with this tradition; I prefer not to unscrew my wine bottles; though it’s not a deal breaker for me. I also enjoy keeping old corks around. I love their smell; in my dining room we keep a close-topped jar, a big one, full of red wine corks, and every time I go to place a new one inside of it, I open it first and inhale deeply. The scent takes me back to countless winery visits, where barrel rooms full of French oak and fermenting grape juice give off an almost identical scent. I love that scent. I love having it at my beck and call.

Of course, corks break. I’ve broken my share when opening them, especially older bottles, but the challenge presented is always worth the effort of surmounting it. I also appreciate the aesthetic, and keeping them around as memories. I have a small collection of Champagne corks with dates written on them in Sharpie, special only to me, yet very much so.

In my field, I feel often that what I call “technology for the sake of technology” is overdone. There’s no need for my smartphone to scan the room to tell me how many people are holding up an image of a triangle; I can ask people to raise their hands to let me know that their choice is triangle far more easily, and without the threat of someone calling while I do it. Some technology is great, but I think we need to pick and choose. I recently visited the most technologically advanced winery in the world, a place I’ll soon be writing about rest assured, and do you know what they used to seal their extraordinary bottles of wine? Corks, of course.

If you don’t already keep your red wine corks around, I suggest you do. They conjure great memories, make delightful air fresheners, and are arguably elegant centerpieces. All that, and it gives the second largest city in Ireland something to hang their hat on. What’s not to love? Let’s hear it for the cork! Besides, it’s Friday. Shouldn’t you be popping one pretty soon?




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