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Cork taint can be transmitted by new oak barrels, says research

The risk of wine suffering 'cork taint' from contaminated new oak barrels is severely under-estimated by coopers and wineries, according to new research.

Tests undertaken by analysts including chemist Pascal Chatonnet at Laboratoire Excell in France suggest that there are severalsources of TCA contamination of oak wood – although so far nobody seems to knowwhere it comes from.

However, the claims have been rubbished by French coopers association Tonneliers de France, which described them as ‘inaccurate and insulting’.

Excell, which has developed a commercial procedure fortesting new barrels for infection, will set out the research in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

‘The extent of the problem is still severely under-estimatedby coopers and barrel-users, due to the extremely unpredictable, localised contamination of the staves,’ the laboratory said.

Excell said it believed that infection occurred while the wood was being naturally dried and seasoned, but could not pinpoint how the contamination happened, despite having several theories on the subject.

But Tonneliers de France disputed this, arguing that only 0.04% of barrels produced in the last three years were suspected of being infected with TCA – fewer than 100 barrels out of about half a million.

Written by Richard Woodard

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