The life of a true cork dork: cork harvesting, making, quality testing

by on June 2, 2011

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I guess you could say all winemakers are “cork dorks,” but since my job also entails overseeing the bottling of our wines every June, I must confess that I’m also a dork about the corks that go into Jordan wine. (Or as Rob likes to call me, The Cork Czar.)

Our first bottles of 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon were sealed with 100-percent natural corks today, and before a single bottle is filled with our latest vintage, we dedicate nearly six weeks to preparing our newborn wine–and our corks–for this moment. We’re very meticulous about the quality control of corks, using only the top grade of corks made in Portugal and employing rigorous quality control measures before every cork finds its new home in a bottle of Jordan Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Before studying winemaking in college, I had no idea cork trees lived up to 250 years–and trees were not harvested for wine corks until they reached 40 years of age. Once you’ve watched a worker harvest bark from a cork tree, you’ll have a newfound respect for their industry.

We take every precaution and quality measure available to combat the possibility of a cork taint affecting a bottle of our wine.  A flawed wine, which has a muted or musty nose and flavors, will often be called “corked” even when the cork is not the culprit of the taint. Cork taint can also come from wine barrels, for example. Cork taint is one of those non-harmful, yet frustrating things that happens when you are dealing with natural, agricultural products. Both wine and corks come from living, breathing plants. Alas, we still want every bottle of Jordan to taste exactly how we intended.

In this video, I discuss how cork is sustainably harvested from forests without cutting down the trees. It’s truly a remarkable, renewable process in our increasingly carbon-footprint conscious world. How wine corks are made is also highlighted, as well as the many quality control steps that go into ensuring Jordan wines are closed with the best corks in the world. The cork harvest and production video footage was provided to us courtesy of 100PercentCork.org. But I’m sure Lisa would jump at the chance to come to Portugal with me next time to capture scenes from a cork harvest.

 

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  • http://www.sacatomato.com Lynn

    I enjoyed your post Maggie.  I’m hyper sensitive to the smell of cork taint.  I didn’t realize it wasn’t always the result of the cork but could also come from wine barrels.  

    Nice to know Jordan works with a sustainably minded source for your corks!

  • http://www.jordanwinery.com Lisa

    Hi Lynn,
    I sent your kind words to Maggie. She’s crazy busy with bottling the next four weeks. Thanks for taking the time to watch our videos and share your comments.
    Best,
    Lisa

  • http://www.ncl-cruise-pictures.blogspot.com/ Sailor

    I have tasted your wines but never went so deep into the history and the story behind the cork. Fascinating story!

  • http://www.jordanwinery.com Lisa

    Thank you for your comment. We really enjoyed making this video. I learned a lot from the interview with Maggie too, and I’ve worked in the wine business for 14 years. There are so many fascinating stories behind winemaking.

  • Ron Saikowski, Wine Columnist

    I have two questions that I would like your input on as follows:
    1. What studies show that TCA can show up in screw caps as stated by Maggie?
    2. How are your corks disinfected prior to insertion in the neck of the bottle?
    Thanks for your reply!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Ron,
    The point Maggie was making is that TCA can be generated by sources other than corks—not that screwcaps can cause TCA.
    Quite often consumers feel that by purchasing a wine with a screwcap closure, they will be guaranteed that the wine will be free of TCA. It is true that screwcaps by nature lack a phenol source necessary for TCA production. But TCA can be sourced by other areas of winemaking in addition to corks. Barrels represent a possible phenol source that combined with chlorine can potentially be a generator for TCA. One notable example of TCA in a winery is the case of a high profile winery that used DE (diatomaceous earth) to filter the wine prior to bottling their $100/ bottle Cabernet. Unfortunately the winemaker did not detect the TCA that had developed from the wooden palate that in combination with chlorine that was used as a sanitizer on the palate and the dap cellar conditions, TCA formed on the wooden pallet and soaked into the bags of DE. The whole lot of wine was contaminated.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Ron,
    What do you mean by disinfected? Are you wondering if TCA can be washed off or removed from the surface of a cork/or that TCA can be rendered sterile by disinfectants if treated before a cork goes into the bottle? TCA can’t be removed that way. Sulfur oxide is often added to bags of corks to ensure no risk for exposure to moisture before insertion into bottles.

  • http://www.usedplasticpallet.net/wooden-pallets/ wooden pallet

    Great! Thank for information, I’m looking for it for
    a long time,

  • Anonymous

    Glad you enjoyed the video.