Forget the Cork!

5 11 2010

The vintage images of wine snobs picking up the cork, sniffing, squeezing and even licking it before approving the wine during wine service in a restaurant is one of significant media debauchery.  These images even leave some fairly versed serves wondering what to do with a screw top.  Just as with the martini, wine has fallen victim to movie madness when it comes to the truth over the years.  Here’s the truth about the cork.

Let’s debunk this myth from the start.  You can’t tell anything about the quality of the wine from the cork.  Smell it, squeeze it or taste it and you will know nothing about what is in the bottle.  The only thing that the cork will convey is if the wine was stored properly.  If it was, then you will see a ring of wine around the very bottom of the cork.  Likewise, if you see wine all the way up the cork, you can deduce that there may be some oxidation or spoilage.

The presentation of the cork dates way back in history but has nothing to do with a guest tasting the wine.  There were rampant producers who were re-labeling lesser wines and selling them at higher prices of well known cult classics.  Thus, the wine makers started branding the corks with their logo.  Seeing the brand on the cork was the only way to be certain that the wine you bought was what the label read.  Servers began presenting the cork as verification of the wine.  Hollywood then made it into a “wine snob” ceremony where many who are certainly not in the know think that they are.

The cork, like the screw top or the synthetic cork, is trash.  Once removed from the bottle it has no significance whatsoever.  Unless you are going to take the opened wine home with you or you collect corks, it has no value to the wine in the bottle.  I’ve seen servers present the screw caps, synthetic corks and real corks in exact same manner.  I always wonder to myself “why?”

While many will debate the pomp and circumstance around the presentation of the cork, it holds history in authorizing the wine and not so much to do with the actual juice in the bottle.  Cheers!

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