Determined to offer unprecedented quality assurance to its customers, Cork Supply South Africa has developed a first-of-its kind dry soak system to detect and eliminate corks with releasable TCA at levels far below the sensory threshold.CorkSupplySA

The people at Cork Supply South Africa have always been committed to providing their winery and spirits customers with corks of the highest quality. For them the process of producing perfect corks starts in the forest, where they source only the finest cork wood.

And at the end of the production process, only perfect corks, free of detectable TCA, must be delivered to their customers. Cork Supply South Africa rigorously inspects and tests all its corks in Portugal and corks are shipped only if they pass strict quality requirements. At their destination, shipping containers are inspected for TBA (2, 4, 6-tribromoanisole), another haloanisoles compound that contributes to wine taint. The container and all lots inside it are again tested for TCA and any other off-aromas or taints as Cork Supply South Africa estimates 6-8% of the corks are rejected for off-aromas.

Independent research studies report that while the percentage of natural cork closures affected by TCA has declined dramatically over the past decade, the compound continues to impact 1-2% of the total global production of natural cork closures. In 2009, determined to offer quality assurance to its customers, Cork Supply South Africa developed the DS100 dry soak system to detect and eliminate corks with releasable TCA at levels far below the sensory threshold.*

Cork Supply South Africa introduced this first-ever non-destructive natural cork inspection process in 2013, and now uses it to evaluate more than six million corks a year. Every cork for a DS100 order is isolated in a sterile jar with several drops of distilled water, sealed and left to hydrate for 48 hours.

“When the trained lab staffers open and sniff each jar TCA, if present, can be accurately detected,” Cork Supply South Africa managing director Chris Wium says. “This has proved effective in virtually eliminating the risk of finished wines contaminated by TCA and other taint.

“During the DS100 hiring process, potential “sniffers” undergo a series of tests to determine whether their noses are sensitive enough to detect TCA taint with a high level of accuracy and repeatability – a necessary skill as they inspect about 6 000 corks a day.”

In 2015, Cork Supply South Africa launched the Bottle Buy Back Guarantee as an added advantage of the DS100 programme. Under the guarantee Cork Supply South Africa pledges that if a customer receives a cork taint claim on any bottle sealed with a100% inspected DS100 natural cork, it will buy back the offending bottle.

“Our Bottle Buy Back Guarantee is a quality commitment from Cork Supply South Africa” Chris says. “We stand by our DS100 inspection process and believe it offers one of the most advanced and thorough quality-control services available, and we’re willing to stake our reputation on it. DS100 ensures that each of our natural corks delivers the ultimate sensory performance to every wine bottle.”

For Cork Supply customers the guarantee is invaluable. “I simply do not wish to gamble with cork quality,” says Eben Sadie of Sadie Family Wines. “Cork Supply DS100 guarantees each cork in Sadie Family Wines is TCA-free and for me it means I can have confidence in every cork.”

Cork Supply South Africa has been leading the industry in research and innovation for more than three decades. Industry firsts include the introduction of cork-by-cork sensory analysis, using gas chromatography with SPME (Solid Phase Microextraction) for detecting releasable TCA during all phases of production, and the introduction of the proprietary Innocork TCA removal (volatile extraction) technology.

At the London Wine Fair in May this year, Cork Supply South Africa introduced DS100+, a faster, automated service with new state-of-the-art equipment that guarantees detection of TCA well below the sensory threshold. DS100+ technology offers 100% taint-free corks of any size at a rate and value that benefits an even wider range of customers.

“The new system eliminates the risk of TCA in natural cork at levels as low as one part per trillion, at a higher volume and lower cost,” Chris says. “The Bottle Buy Back Guarantee has been extended to the DS100+ service. If a customer receives a cork taint claim on any bottle sealed with a Cork Supply South Africa 100% inspected DS100+ natural cork, the company will buy back the bottle.”

Cork Supply South Africa expects to roll out the DS100+ service early this year at the company’s new Klapmuts Business Park facility.

To find out more more about DS100+ call Cork Supply South Africa managing director Chris Wium on +27 83 628 2753 or sales and technical manager Dr Hanneli van der Merwe on +27 83 628 6993.

*Sensory Screening for Large-format Natural Corks by Dry Soak Testing and Its Correlation to Headspace Solid-phase Microextraction (SPME) Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) Releasable Trichloroanisole (TCA) Analysis | Macku, Carlos; Gonzalez, Lesa; Schleussner, Christiane; Mesquita, Ana Cristina; Herwatt, James W; Kirch, Leonard C; Schwartz, Rob J (2009) J Agric Food Chem, 57 (17), pp 7 962–7 968. DOI: 10.1021/jf901135p

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