Natural Cork Council Announces New Quality Standards

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The steady reduction of taint aromas in its member's incoming cork shipments has allowed the U.S. based Cork Quality Council to tighten screening standards for TCA to less than 1.5 parts per trillion. This is the strictest standard applied within the world's cork industry.

Since implementing this method we have seen over 80% reduction in the average level of TCA found in our incoming cork shipments. In a natural product like cork, it is impossible to guarantee perfection, but we think we are getting very close.

When the Cork Quality Council developed a chemical screening program for natural corks their goal was to identify and eliminate cork bales with a high incidence of TCA - the chemical most often associated with musty aromas in wine.

CQC Director, Peter Weber states, "Since implementing this method we have seen over 80% reduction in the average level of TCA found in our incoming cork shipments. In a natural product like cork, it is impossible to guarantee perfection, but we think we are getting very close."

In a 2006 study conducted by ETS Laboratories and sponsored by the America Vineyard Foundation, cork bales were screened in using a method designed to match the CQC protocol. Wines were bottled with corks from multiple lots with a variety of TCA screening values.

Three cork lots had TCA screening values less than 2.0ppt. From these lots 180 bottles were tested for TCA. After twenty months, only one bottle had detectable TCA higher than 1.0 part per trillion (1.6 ppt). Wishing to insure that its member companies only accept corks that screen below the 2.0ppt level, the new CQC protocol flags any cork bale that has a screening score of 1.5 ppt or higher. When a bale is flagged, the entire cork lot is subject to expanded sampling. In a typical lot of 150,000 corks, a single flagged bale will cause the entire lot to be rejected.

Currently, CQC members report that 96% of screening tests on incoming natural corks are below 2.0ppt. This compares to just 58% in 2002. Much of this improvement is attributed to the fact the CQC members employ the most stringent standards in the worldwide cork industry.

The Cork Quality Council is a non-profit group organized to improve quality assurance programs for its membership. The group is comprised of Amorim Cork America, Cork Supply USA, Ganau America, Juvenal Direct, Lafitte Cork & Capsule, M.A.Silva Corks USA, Portocork America and Scott Laboratories.

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