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How Cork Makes Wine Taste Better

Wines under cork rated higher in blind taste test –

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Most winemakers know that natural cork can make their wine taste better. That is why over 70 percent of all wine is sealed with cork, and the vast majority of the world’s finest wines.  The oxygen contained within the cork, diffused into the bottle at a predictable but non-linear rate and in exactly the right amount, interacts with the wine and allows it to develop and reach its full potential as envisioned by the winemaker. This oxygen infusion occurs even as the cork forms a perfect seal and keeps contaminants out of the bottle. 

But there is another way in which cork makes wine taste better, recently proven in a neuroenology experiment conducted by Oxford University professor Charles Spene.  

In a blind taste test, one hundred forty participants were divided into two groups, and each participant was asked to rate two wines.  The wines were chosen to be similar in type but with meaningful differences. Each wine was rated twice. The first wine was rated after hearing the sound of a cork popping, and then rated again after the participant physically uncorked the bottle and poured the wine. The second wine was rated after hearing the sound of screw cap being unscrewed, and then rated again after the participant physically unscrewed the bottle and poured the wine. The wines associated with each closure were reversed for the two groups. The results showed that the vast majority of those questioned preferred the taste/flavor of the wine from a cork stoppered bottle. The mere fact of being associated with the sound of cork popping significantly increased the participants’ perception of the quality of the wine. The effect was even greater on the lower-priced wine, with a quantifiable 15% improvement in perceived quality. The results provide the first empirical demonstration that one and the same wine will be rated higher in terms of its quality when served in a cork-stoppered rather than a screw-cap closure bottle. 

According to Dr. Spence: “Our senses are intrinsically linked – what we hear, see and feel has a huge effect on what we taste. The sound and sight of a cork being popped sets our expectations before the wine has even touched our lips, and these expectations then anchor our subsequent tasting experience. These results emphasize the importance of closures for wine, and the clear association between cork and quality in our subconscious.” 

You can read the full study here: http://www.mdpi.com/2306-5710/3/4/52/htm