July 17: Miguel Cabral, Director of R&D for the biggest Portuguese cork company and one of world’s largest producers of cork closures- Amorim, says the belief that wine should be in contact with cork at all times for keeping it away from drying and therefore should be laid on the sides, is apparently nonsense, creating controversy among making many wine experts
Miguel Cabral is responsible for the Research & Development Department at Amorim and is also a Professor in the Laboratory of Microbiology in the Pharmacy Faculty in Universidade do Porto.He had been a Speaker at the MUST Fermenting Ideas 2017.
Storing wine on its side won’t prevent corks from drying out. It may even accelerate their degeneration, according to Dr. Miguel Cabral. “The cork will never dry out with almost 100 percent humidity in the head-space, so it is a myth that you need to store a bottle on its side,” Cabral said in Portugal last month. This is contrary to the conventional wisdom which tells us that the key to storing wine is keeping the cork moist.
Also, dispelling the myth that wine needs to be stored in a damp cellar, he said that “the humidity of the environment around the bottle won’t have any influence, because the cork is influenced by the humidity inside the bottle.”
His hypothesis is likely to generate a lot of debate since it has been universally acknowledged by every expert and in the writings of wine specialists that bottle must be kept horizontally in any situation, except champagne and sparkling wines. Michel Bettane, a well-known French journalist, critic, author and a wine judge says ‘I have a big personal cellar with thousands of bottles. I could agree that for high alcohol products like Sherry and Port, this may hold true because of alcohol vapours inside the bottle. But I would not agree that the normal bottles with cork closures should not be kept horizontally.’
Another person who disagreed with Cabral’s ‘pronouncement’ was Gerard Basset MW MS who said it was absolutely important that the bottles must be kept horizontally unless it was a high alcohol wine. It has been his experience that when the cork is left dry, there are chances of a bit of oxygen getting in and oxidizing wine.
However, Cabral claims his theory is backed by a study published by the Australian Wine Research Institute 13 years ago. The abstract to the 2005 paper says that “bottle orientation during storage under the conditions of this study had little effect on the composition and sensory properties of the wines examined,” according to an Article in The Drinks Business.
Even if Cabral’s theory is true, storing wine on its side has numerous benefits when it comes to saving space and accessibility. We don’t see his claims stacking up to wine cellars worldwide, was the general impression of wine experts who had travelled together to Madeira after the ‘MUST Fermenting Ideas’ Conference in Cascais, Portugal last month.
delWine has observed several situations in India where people are not necessarily knowledgeable enough to store the bottles horizontally and generally keep the bottles standing. In a substantial number of cases, the cork is found to be dry after a few years and the wine is oxidized. In fact, one of the reasons why screw cap has become more popular is because storing them vertically creates no problem of oxidation.
In another study conducted, it has been found that ideally, the bottle should not be stored horizontally (0 deg angle) but at 27° at which the liquid touches the cork just enough to keep it wet at the inside and prevent the intake of oxygen.
At any rate, the Statement of Prof Miguel Cabral has left a lot of room for controversy and it could become a subject of hot discussion and debate.
Meanwhile, Antonio Amorim, Chairman of the Porto-based Amorim group claims that his company plans to eradicate the TCA problem in all the corks-this means zero defect at affordable costs. Currently the high-ended corks are available with guaranteed no defect due to TCA at a price. This price is being sought to be reduced to a very low in the next couple of years.
delWine still recommends the bottles with cork closures to be kept at an angle of 27°, if possible or else horizontally and not vertically unless it is a fortified or sparkling wine, until there are more studies that prove otherwise-editor
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