Cork distributors use latest technology to prevent taint in wine

Wednesday, 17 November, 2004
Ronel Beukes
An independent quality control laboratory that focuses on monitoring levels of volatile compounds in wine corks was launched yesterday (Thursday, 11 November 2004) at the Institute for Wine Biotechnology (IWBT) in Stellenbosch. This followed an earlier agreement between the IWBT at the University of Stellenbosch and Thalès Wine Cellar Services on the one hand and the South African Cork Quality Council (SACQC) on the other hand.

This is the second agreement of its kind in the world, following the success achieved in the United States.

Mr Antonio de Gouveia of the Cork Quality Council said, "Our main objective is to improve the quality of natural corks distributed to the wine industry in South Africa. It was therefore important to establish an independent laboratory to control TCA, the main risk affecting the quality of natural cork closures."

TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) is an innocuous compound of chlorine and phenol found in natural environments and one of the most common off-flavours in food and drink. This compound odour is similar to wet cardboard. TCA is also actively absorbed and adheres to surfaces of all types, including plastics, wood and glass, as well as cork. If there is TCA in the atmosphere, it will find its way into products and packaging.

The laboratory will therefore also extend its analyses to the testing of other chemical compounds and contaminants in wine cellars that may infect wines with off-flavours similar to cork taint.

According to Mr Jaco Durand, Managing Director of Thalès, a company that specializes in cellar hygiene practices within wineries, "This laboratory is an investment in the South African wine industry. We are following in the footsteps of other laboratories in wine producing countries such as ETS in the USA, Excell and Vectour in France and AWRI in Australia to improve wine quality."

Prof. Florian Bauer of the IWBT said the laboratory is a sterling example of cooperation in research and quality control between the University of Stellenbosch and the private sector. "We have to harness the research capacity and know-how available in academic institutions to help wine-related industries to meet internationally accepted quality targets and the challenges presented by more demanding and better informed consumers".

Members of the South African Cork Quality Council are required to comply with the Council's specifications before being awarded the registered quality seal of approval, which is renewed on an annual basis.

For more information, contact:

Institute for Wine Biotechnology:
Prof. Florian Bauer
tel. 021 808 4346

South African Cork Quality Council:
Mr Antonio de Gouveia
tel. 021 551 2335

Jaco Durand
tel. 082 773 2934