TCA takes time...

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TCA takes time...

Postby Thomas » Thu Oct 19, 2006 6:37 pm

Let me first admit that if anyone were to have posted what I am about to post I'd be among the first to say it can't be so.

Last night I opened one of my favorite Vermentino wines for dinner. As I prepare to pull the cork from the screw I got a whiff of you-know-what, but it was sooooo slight.

I smelled the wine, seemed like I remembered it. Must be me, I thought.

After a couple of sips i started to smell a faint TCA in the wine, at least that's what I thought I was smelling. I mentioned to my wife that I know this wine and I think it is TCA tainted.

Being a wife, she tells me you think you know every wine, and then she says she doesn't think it is tainted. So, we have dinner (trout with dill, garlic and paprika butter, plus Portuguese fired potatoes).

The wine had some fruit, but I kept thinking it didn't have the fruit I remembered. My wife kept thinking, I am sure, that I am a wine blowhard...

Anyway, I persuaded her that we should switch wines and save this one until tomorrow.

Tonight is tomorrow. I grabbed the wine from the fridge, pulled the cotk out an whoa there! TCA smacked me right upside my head. Certainly far more powerful then the faint aroma of the previous night.

I handed my wife a glass of it and of course, as she sniffed and made a face, I said nyeah, nyeah, nyeah--I am not just a know-it-all; I am a correct know-it-all.

Seriously, I have had wines start out with a faint TCA but they have always gotten stronger within minutes. This baby took 24 hours to bloom, if bloom is the right description--more like bomb.

So, TCA has yet another way of interacting in wine.

SCREWCAPS PLEASE!
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Oliver McCrum » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:06 pm

I had the same thing happen to me the other day. Tasted a dry white wine with a customer, thought it tasted muted but OK, took it home and half way through a glass of it I realised it was corked.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Thomas » Thu Oct 19, 2006 9:00 pm

Oliver, I've had that happen before. But I have never had the wine take so long to fully develop the TCA taint. We had that wine on the table for at least half an hour, maybe more, and it did not get any worse than what I first detected.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Mark Lipton » Fri Oct 20, 2006 12:59 am

Thomas wrote:Oliver, I've had that happen before. But I have never had the wine take so long to fully develop the TCA taint. We had that wine on the table for at least half an hour, maybe more, and it did not get any worse than what I first detected.


From the sound of it, when first opened the TCA level was just at your threshold of detection. At that level, you mostly sense it as a lack of fruit with little if any of the musty notes. The question as to why it took so long to get overtly corky is tied up with what's going on to increase the corkiness in the first place. It isn't that the concentration of TCA in the wine is noticeably increasing, since the volume of the wine isn't decreasing to any significant extent. Instead, I'll speculate that the other volatile elements are mostly blowing off, leaving the less volatile TCA behind in greater abundance in the headspace of the wine. If your wine was cold, or particularly well endowed with other volatile elements, it could take longer for the corkiness to make itself felt loud and clear.

FWIW, I've had the same experience on several occasions, and my wife swears up and down that she once opened a corked wine, left it in the cellar overnight and came back to it to find it completely free of taint (I wasn't present for that miracle and she was less than fully sober by her own admission).

There's my $0.02,
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Redwinger » Fri Oct 20, 2006 8:04 am

Mark Lipton wrote:...., and my wife swears up and down that she once opened a corked wine, left it in the cellar overnight and came back to it to find it completely free of taint.

Mark,
Just one more miracle like that and in about another 100 years we'll have a new saint from Indiana.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Mark Lipton » Fri Oct 20, 2006 11:47 am

Redwinger wrote:
Mark Lipton wrote:...., and my wife swears up and down that she once opened a corked wine, left it in the cellar overnight and came back to it to find it completely free of taint.

Mark,
Just one more miracle like that and in about another 100 years we'll have a new saint from Indiana.
BP


Then our home could be renamed Chateau St. Jean. Sweet!

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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Victorwine » Fri Oct 20, 2006 2:20 pm

Back in the late 1990’s when the Australian Wine Research Institute began their enclosure survey tests, they tested the stability of the chemical compound TCA in open bottles of TCA tainted wine. Opened bottles with reasonable high levels of TCA (15ng/L) were re-corked (with the original cork) and let stand for 2 weeks. They discovered after retesting that just a small trace of TCA was found in the wine and the rest had been reabsorbed back into the cork.
Maybe by placing the wine in the fridge all or some of the TCA in the cork was transferred into the wine.

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Last edited by Victorwine on Fri Oct 20, 2006 10:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Ruth B » Fri Oct 20, 2006 7:14 pm

Thomas wrote:SCREWCAPS PLEASE!

I think that I sometimes am so dissappointed with the TCA that I try to ignore it until it can no longer be ignored.

We just got our case of Coffaro from California and know that not one of them will be corked because they are all screwcaps--yeah David for not being afraid.

While I love the romance of the cork, the more corked bottles we have, the less appealing that romance is.


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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Michael Pronay » Sat Oct 21, 2006 9:25 am

Thomas,

there might be very a simple explanation to what you encountered which also fits your description of the cork smelling intensely of TCA.

It might very well be possible that the infection of the cork sat mainly on the side of the cork pointing outside, so that the contamination of the wine was weak.

Putting the cork back upside-down (which is the normal way to to it) had the effect of immediately heavily tainting the wine within minutes without even in contact with the cork.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Victorwine » Sat Oct 21, 2006 12:40 pm

Hi Michael,
So if the chemical compound TCA can transfer from the cork to wine and vice versa. Could the following be possible?
A wine that is “suspected” of having a slight TCA taint (“drinkable”), if one was to hold it for another day and the original cork was removed from the wine there is a chance the wine might remain “drinkable”.
A wine that is “suspected” of having a reasonable high level of TCA taint, if one was to hold the bottle for a few more days using the original cork as a stopper there is a chance the wine may become less TCA tainted.

Salute
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Michael Pronay » Sat Oct 21, 2006 12:53 pm

Well, Victor, I am quite sceptical about this theory . . . :?:
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Thomas » Sun Oct 22, 2006 5:44 pm

Thanks all. I can only believe from this--and other--experiences with TCA that it's not just a cork and wine taint--it's an enigmatic money stealer.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Michael Pronay » Sun Oct 22, 2006 6:47 pm

Thomas,

do you remember whether you corked the bottle with the original cork (upside-down) or not?

According to my experience this really is a non-trivial question.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Thomas » Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:15 pm

Yes, I did.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Michael Pronay » Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:41 am

So then this fact supports my theory that TCA didn't take 24 hours to taint the wine, but tainted it immediately after inserting the cork.

I once brought along a half full bottle of wine accidentally stoppered with a TCA infected cork (which I only realised after coming home). I carried the bottle upright, the walk wasn't longer than 10 minutes, but at home the wine was terribly corked.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Thomas » Mon Oct 23, 2006 3:20 pm

No Michael, your theory doesn't hold in this case.

After having been a wine salesman for so long I developed the habit of always putting a cork back in the bottle after pouring--just in case I knock the bottle over, which I have done as a pourer at tastings.

So, after I poured the first glass for my wife and I the cork went back in. She took a second glass, so the cork came back out. The wine's aroma hadn't changed in the time between first and second glass--I could still detect a faint hint; my wife detected none. Wasn't until the next day when she smelled it did the TCA blow right into my wife's face, and by then it certainly was no longer a faint aroma to my nose.

I do have a keener detection device than she does, but probably only because I have the training and years of working with wine that she does not.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Michael Pronay » Tue Oct 24, 2006 10:11 am

OK, accepted. Still the fact remains quite mysterious.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Dale Williams » Tue Oct 24, 2006 10:15 am

I'm pretty sure I ruined a bottle of 1983 L- Poyferre that way. Was going to a dinner with Robin, Bob Ross, and Jay Miller. I double-decanted in advance. As I opened it got a whiff of TCA. But when I decanted, not a trace. So I rinsed sediment from bottle, put wine back in, and put in cork (upside down). When we opened at restaurant wine was clearly corked. I've started using a inert stopper for bottles I decant in advance.
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Dave Erickson » Tue Oct 24, 2006 10:20 am

I think it might be a good idea to rename this thread "TCA X-Files."

"The Taint Is Out There Somewhere." :D
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Thomas » Tue Oct 24, 2006 10:47 am

Dale Williams wrote:I'm pretty sure I ruined a bottle of 1983 L- Poyferre that way. Was going to a dinner with Robin, Bob Ross, and Jay Miller. I double-decanted in advance. As I opened it got a whiff of TCA. But when I decanted, not a trace. So I rinsed sediment from bottle, put wine back in, and put in cork (upside down). When we opened at restaurant wine was clearly corked. I've started using a inert stopper for bottles I decant in advance.


That would mean the cork can taint the wine without touching it.

The next time a novice asks me about legs I'm going to say that I don't know about the wine but the TCA bug certainly seems to have legs. ;)
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Dale Williams » Tue Oct 24, 2006 11:08 am

Thomas:
I don't think so. This was hours before dinner, I then carried the wine in a shoulder bag (train to Marble Hill, subway to UWS to meet Betsy, then walk from Lincoln Center across CP to UES). I'd guess there was fairly substantial contact (on train for instance I typically lean the bag to jam in a corner, so it doesn't flip on side where there would be a good chance of a reinserted cork popping out).
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Thomas » Tue Oct 24, 2006 12:21 pm

Oh. Then the inert stopper is the answer.

Ever wonder how many unknowing people just drink the tainted wine and then afterwards decide they'd rather be beer drinkers?
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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Victorwine » Tue Oct 24, 2006 2:17 pm

Thomas P wrote:
Thanks all. I can only believe from this--and other--experiences with TCA that it's not just a cork and wine taint--it's an enigmatic money stealer.

Nicely said Thomas. So as educated consumers we should learn as much as we can about TCA taint and “try” to understand how our favorite beverage is affected by it. (IMO eventually scientists will unravel this mystery).

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Re: TCA takes time...

Postby Mark Lipton » Tue Oct 24, 2006 3:26 pm

Thomas wrote:That would mean the cork can taint the wine without touching it.


Thomas, although Dale has explained his story, cork taint can be spread without direct contact between cork and wine. The very fact that you can smell it tells you that TCA is volatile enough to exist partly in the gas phase. Any gas in the headspace can and will dissolve in the wine to whatever extent it's soluble. Technically, this is called gas-phase diffusion, but it's a far slower process than simply leaching TCA out of a tainted cork directly into the wine. Nonetheless, a wine stoppered with a tainted cork will pick up the taint even if the bottle is always stored upright. Alas, we are so senstive to TCA (for the most part) that it can be detected in the low part per billion level: it doesn't take much to ruin your wine.

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