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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Max Allen

A South Australian food processing company may have discovered the wine industry's holy grail: a cure' for cork taint. Australian High Pressure Processors (AHPP) owns and operates the only commercial hydrostatic pressure unit in Australia. The unit cold-pasteurises' food by briefly subjecting it to immense pressure - the equivalent of 10,000 feet under the sea - inside a water-filled, 215-litre chamber. The pressure destroys all yeasts, bacteria and moulds, while having no effect on the flavour or physical properties of the foods being processed. Until now, the unit has been employed to cold-pasteurise' foods such as shellfish, fruit juice and milk, but AHPP's general manager, Ted Pettafor, claims that the process also eradicates TCA from corks. Preliminary tests involving sensory evaluation of tainted corks before and after processing have been highly encouraging, and although conclusive testing by gas chromatography has yet to be completed, AHPP has signed a deal with Vinocor, Portugal's second-largest cork supplier, to commercialise the process, and has applied for an international patent for the pressure treatment of corks. News of this potential breakthrough will no doubt interest Amorim, Portugal's largest supplier of corks, which is about to announce a revolutionary development of its own. Noel Heyes, managing director of Amorim Australia, told Harpers that the new, top-secret treatment process will be unveiled in early 2003 and will significantly reduce the incidence of TCA in cork - but he stopped short of promising to eradicate the problem altogether.