Are ‘Corklins’ the Reason Wine Bottled with a Cork Tastes Different?
The wine world has faced an ongoing debate over whether wine bottled with a cork is better than twist-off bottles and other non-cork packaging. On one side, you have the cork industry (a surprisingly vocal group) as well as plenty of traditionalists who truly believe cork is a key component to the wine experience. On the other side, you have a contingent who says, so what? One possible answer, according to a cork industry study, is that the cork reacts with the wine inside to release a special set of compounds. They’ve even been given a cute little name… “Corklins.”
Though the study that discovered these compounds was first published last fall, according to The Drinks Business, which closely follows all things cork, the revelation that the name Corklins is being actively pushed by the industry only happened this week. Needless to say, if you’re trying to promote the benefits of a cork, it helps to have a catchier name for its unique reactive chemicals than “ellagitannin-derived compounds.”
But what are Corklins? “Having studied the composition of corks we have found that there is a structural fraction and an extractable fraction, which contains phenolic compounds,” Miguel Cabral, the director of R&D for global cork leader Amorim, was quoted as saying. To put it a slightly less scientific way, he compared the cork to a wine barrel, seeing as cork is just bark, not dissimilar from wood. “When we put wine in a barrel there is an extraction of the phenolics from a barrel into the wine, and it’s the same when we put wine in a bottled seal with a cork.” As a result, even though the amount of interaction between cork and wine is far less than that of barrel and wine, Cabral suggests that the cork can still contribute small amounts of things like tannins, phenols, and polyphenols to a wine. These phenols apparently react with other wine chemicals known as catechins and malvidins which form new, bigger compounds: Those are Corklins—and the study suggests that these Corklins can affect the color and astringency of wine over time.
Of course, the cork industry has a vested interest in making Corklins sound like delightful little elves dancing around in your wine to make it taste better. But is it believable that one little contact point with cork can actually better a bottle of vino? “It seems entirely reasonable to assume that phenolic compounds from corks would extract into wine over time,” says Ray Isle, Food & Wine Executive Wine Editor. “The study cited seems to prove that they might affect color and astringency. Whether they affect it in a positive way or a negative way is another question.”
In the end, Corklins certainly won’t end the debate of cork versus twist-off. But if you are pro-cork, it is a fun new word to have in your repertoire. And if you’re anti-cork, feel free to steal that “little elves” line. I stole it from Ray Isle.