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To Cork or Not To Cork

To Cork or Not To Cork

Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle

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In Judgment of Paris, George M. Taber masterfully chronicled the historic 1976 wine tasting when unknown California wines defeated top French ones, marking a major turning point in wine history. Now he explores the most controversial topic in the world of wine: What product should be used to seal a bottle? Should it be cork, plastic, glass, a screwcap, or some other type of closure still to be invented?

For nearly four centuries virtually every bottle of wine had a cork in it. But starting in the 1970s, a revolution began to topple the cork monopoly. In recent years, the rebellion has been gathering strength. Belatedly, the cork industry began fighting back, while trying to retain its predominant position. Each year 20 billion closures go onto wine bottles, and, increasingly, they are not corks.

The cause of the onslaught against cork is an obscure chemical compound known as TCA. In amounts as low as several parts per trillion, the compound can make a $400 bottle of wine smell like wet newspaper and taste equally bad. Such wine is said to be "corked." While cork's enemies urge people to throw off the old and embrace new closures, millions of wine drinkers around the world are still in love with the romance of the cork and the ceremony of opening a bottle.

With a thorough command of history, science, winemaking, and marketing, Taber examines all sides of the debate. Along the way, he collects a host of great characters and pivotal moments in the production, storage, and consumption of wine, and paints a truly satisfying portrait of a wholly intriguing controversy. As Australian winemaker Brian Croser describes it: "It's scary how passionate people can be on this topic. Prejudice and extreme positions have taken over, and science has often gone out the window."
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  • Scribner | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743299350 | 
  • December 2009
List Price $17.00
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PROLOGUE

The David Bruce Winery has long made one of America’s most prestigious Chardonnays. Founder David Bruce, a California wine pioneer, was originally trained as a medical doctor with a specialty in dermatology. His real passion, though, was making wine, and for years after starting his own winery in 1961 he practiced medicine by day so that by night and on weekends he could make wine. He only retired from medicine and became a full-time winemaker in 1985. Bruce’s vineyards are in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco. Early on, he became convinced that his cool, western side of the mountain range... see more

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