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More oxidised than "corked"

Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jo Burzynska

Preliminary findings of the Wine & Spirit Association (WSA)-led research into closure-related taint suggested levels far below those expected. Martin Hall, director of the Food Science Division at Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association undertaking the research, presented the results at a LIWSF briefing, which revealed that out of 5,735 bottles of wine tested, the total incidence of faulty wine was only 2.3%, with oxidation accounting for 1%, volatility 0.7% and mustiness 0.6%. The project, which started in January this year, has been collating samples of faulty wine sent for independent verification from the major retailers. However, it appeared that there could be some teething troubles concerning the methodology employed. One of the major areas questioned by trade members at the briefing was discrepancies between what retailers were identifying as potentially TCA-affected wines and the considerably lower incidence confirmed by the verifiers, who noted oxidation was a more frequent problem. One of the verifiers, David Bird MW, explained that testing of the bottles forwarded by retailers happened the next day, so levels of oxidation should not be greatly increased. He said: "We don't yet know why we're not confirming the same numbers." Many of the audience expressed surprise at the 0.6% figure. Mike Paul of Destination Wine, asked: "If we don't believe it's 0.6%, what do we do now?" Hall stressed that while at this stage no causal relationships within the data can be established, he admitted that the methodology had some shortcomings. As a control he suggested testing samples from a specific part of a marketplace to support the results of the current study. Though this, he said, would prove costly. Dr Barry Sutton, former WSA chairman and chairman of the taint seminar panel, said: "The figures are still preliminary. We can be concluding that we don't have a 10% problem. 0.6% is still a problem."