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Cork Supply: new Legacy cork is ‘gamechanger’

Legacy, the latest innovation from Cork Supply, has been released to guard against both excess oxygen ingress and TCA cork taint.

In the world of wine, so much can go spectacularly right. From the grape’s ability to express its site to the complex chemistry that reveals new aromas with age, many stages of the winemaking process yield spectacular results when beyond human control. Yet the reverse is also true: winemakers have for decades been perplexed by seemingly random faults. Whether musty, corked aromas or the vinegary taste of oxidised wine, in past generations, the risk of a fault was an ever-present worry for winemakers.

Cork Supply, founded in 1981, has consistently prioritised the research and technology that means such faults no longer need be a major concern. Since the 1990s, when cork taint increasingly concerned winemakers, the company has sought solutions to these problems by developing new technology and innovations. Cork Supply’s research and development team, accounting for 15% of employees, has created a series of corks with innovations to eliminate potential faults. The latest breakthrough, teased as a “gamechanger” by president Jochen Michalski last year, has just been released.

The latest technology

The new Legacy cork from Cork Supply is billed as the most consistent natural cork available to the market. With decades of research behind it, including a recently concluded project, it promises to guarantee against both excess oxygen ingress and TCA cork taint. Fittingly for a company that values both technology and people, the cork relies on both cutting-edge techniques and a talented team to provide Cork Supply’s ultimate closure.

Underpinning the latest release is the newly unveiled X100 technology, a proprietary process that is the first of its kind on the market. This process prevents oxidised wine through a structural analysis of a batch of corks. The entire batch is assessed and any cork that seems predisposed to excessive oxygen ingress is identified and removed.

The new X100 technology.

The hi-tech solution has been in development for 12 years, training an algorithm on immense data sets to assure customers of its accuracy. On entering the machines, corks undergo non-invasive electromagnetic scanning to map their internal structure. AI-powered software then evaluates the corks, selecting any anomalous corks that could allow too much oxygen to enter the bottle. A large part of the development process has been establishing the features to look for. With a decade’s worth of data, Cork Supply is now confident it can predict those corks prone to excessive oxygen ingress (which can be up to ten times the average level) even when the irregularities are invisible to the naked eye.

Human expertise leading analysis

The cork producer also uses its existing, well-regarded technologies and solutions for added peace of mind. Before undergoing the X100 process, all Cork Supply Legacy closures go through the DS100 and DS100+ processes that remove corks with TCA or other off-aromas.

The DS100 process, introduced in 2011, made Cork Supply the first company in the world to offer individually guaranteed TCA-free corks. Standing for ‘dry soak, 100% inspected’, the non-invasive process places corks in jars with a small amount of incredibly pure water. The jars are then tested by skilled technicians who, through a combination of genetic predisposition and practice, can smell exceptionally low levels of TCA. A panel of trained sensory specialists inspects every single cork in the batch and, if any of them detects TCA, the jar of corks is rejected. As a process built on human expertise, it also means the technicians can assess for other compromising aromas.

A technician testing corks as part of the DS100 process

As a further guarantee, and one used for the Legacy corks, DS100+ offers a machine-led parallel process. Using cutting-edge technology, an automated machine releases volatile compounds from the cork, concentrates them and assesses for the presence of TCA. This process, a technical solution launched in 2016, can detect concentrations of TCA of less than one part per trillion, well below the level of sensory perception.

Results customers can trust

The three processes combined assure customers that Legacy corks will protect their wines against cork taint and oxidation. Cork Supply is so confident in the new product that it offers a buy back guarantee. If any customers receive a cork taint claim on a bottle using a Legacy cork, they may contact Cork Supply, who will buy back the bottle at retail price.

Thanks to the company’s reputation and quality assurance procedures, several producers have already adopted the corks. These include Bodegas Tierra, Viña Sastre, Bodegas Mauro, Bodegas Juan Gil and Château Tayac

“We’ve been obsessed with the perfect cork closure since we launched Cork Supply in the 1980s. We have always invested in technologies, creating patents and solutions that allow us to reach the premium market today with the natural cork closure closer to perfection in the market,” says Jochen Michalski, president and founder of Cork Supply. The new Legacy corks bear witness to his obsession with new technology and processes. In the last decade alone, his company has invested €11 million in research and development.

As many come back around to cork’s benefits – as well as providing ideal conditions for ageing wine, cork forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere – advances in research are more important to the industry than ever. Every step forward in quality assurance and technological prowess is a step away from the fear of cork taint and oxidation that has kept some winemakers away from natural cork.

For Michalski, it is proof that his company can bring something new after being in existence for more than 40 years. “The new technology is the pinnacle of a decade of research,” he concludes. “It raises the status of natural cork closures and the position of Cork Supply as an innovation leader in this field.”

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