Inquiring Winemaker


Is Barrel TCA the New Cork Taint?

January 2011
by Tim Patterson
Is contamination of French oak barrels by TCA the new cork taint? Or is this just old news wrapped in fresh press releases? That question may be the biggest 2010 year-end controversy in the wine trade, overshadowing old reliables like whether screwcaps make for clean wines or reduced wines, or whether genetically modified yeast is a swell idea or a non-starter. The eruption of interest in barrel taint began in late summer, when Pascal Chatonnet of the Excell Laboratory in Bordeaux announced research indicating that the incidence of TCA contamination in new French oak barrels was higher than previously assumed, that the problem was increasing and—worst of all—that the origin of the troubles was as yet unknown. The findings were accepted for publication in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry and made available on the journal’s website.

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