Frischhaltefolie Kork

Nebbiolo and Life Hacks

Cascina La Castella – Nebbiolo d’Alba 2016

I’m probably not alone with painful cork experiences. It’s a particular pain for me when I have to throw away fine champagnes, old Barolo or any new insider tip that I’ve bought a single bottle of somewhere. There is a rumour that cling film solves this serious problem very easily. Roll up the film, stuff it into a decanter, put the wine on top, wait, done, clean wine. It’s almost too simple and too good to be true. But what sounds like a dubious TikTok trend actually works.

There was even a scientific publication about it in 2020. María Reyes González-Centeno et al. from the University of Bordeaux used laboratory analyses to prove that wines treated with trichloroanisole (TCA) lost up to 82 per cent of the substance responsible for the off-flavour when they were treated with cling film. At a TCA content of 1 ng/L, which corresponds to a medium but significant cork, the TCA content fell well below the human sensory threshold. At 3 ng/L, the content could be pushed into a range where the cork taint is perceptible for some tasters but not for all.

Cling film can help against TCA. Only against TCA …

From my personal experience, the technique does not always work. The study from Bordeaux only analysed wines infused with TCA in the laboratory, not cork taint as it occurs naturally. We know that in addition to trichloroanisole, the substances tetrachloroanisole and pentachloroanisole are also responsible for the off-flavour. In addition, a bad cork is often accompanied by other faults and, in addition to the typical cork taint, oxidation notes often spoil the wine. My general rule of thumb based on anecdotal evidence is: the more one-dimensional the cork tastes, the greater the chance that cling film will work; the more complex the off-flavour, the worse the chances.

Nebbiolo d’Alba from La Castella as the object of investigation

But now to the wine: immediately upon opening, a cork tint appears, not extremely noticeable, but still undeniable. According to the WSET template, it would probably be categorised as medium plus. But the cork taint was clear and pure, the epitome of a TCA flavour. After half an hour with half a metre of cling film in the decanter, it had indeed disappeared.

The wine is a Nebbiolo from La Castella made by my dear friend Monica Cassino from Roddino. I know the wine quite well and therefore I can judge, even without a fresh bottle for counter-tasting, that the wine has not changed much apart from the absorbed cork taint. It shows a typical Nebbiolo bouquet of hay, sour cherry, cranberries and a wonderful violet flavour. In the mouth, it is a little less concentrated than Barolo because the maceration is shorter at La Castella. With a slight maturity of six years, it shows some wax crayon, tar, Amarena cherry and a hint of raisin. I really like these wines because they represent an easy-going Nebbiolo style. They have less punch than most Barolo, are less powerful, less intense, less royal. I have often thought they were Barbaresco in blind tastings.

My impression corresponds with the study results. In order to investigate the influence on substances other than TCA, the scientists also added cling film to uncontaminated wines. Even though the study shows individual aroma compounds that analytically decreased by up to 80 per cent, tasters were unable to detect any significant difference between treated and untreated wines according to the study. To put it briefly and unscientifically: the cling film takes away aromas from the wine, but none that seem to be particularly important.

A practical problem that the study does not address is that a lot of wine remains stuck to the film. I haven’t measured it, but it feels like the plastic drinks about a glass of wine itself. But it’s still better than discarding the whole bottle. And there’s something else preying on my mind. Does this also work with champagne?

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