Using cork stoppers in bottled wine is preferable for both wine producers and consumers. Cork has unique properties which ensure proper sealing of bottles while also offering prime conditions for the ageing process of wine. A major disadvantage of using cork, however, is cork taint. This is a common problem in wine due to haloanisole compounds that can alter wine quality. Presently, detection of contaminated cork stoppers in the manufacturing plant is the most common solution. Unfortunately, cork stoppers that pass quality controls can still become contaminated at the bottling line. This leads to more economic losses for the entire wine production chain. An EU-funded project, ENCORK (Electronic nose to detect haloanisoles in cork stoppers), has found an alternative solution. Composed of a core group of European SMEs and prestigious R&D organisations, the team aimed to develop a solution detecting TCA (the haloanisole most commonly found in wine) in bottling facilities by using a non-invasive sensing device. The device is known as an electronic-nose for the fast detection of TCA at a level of two parts per trillion (2 ng/L). It is able to test 250 corks per hour and can detect TCA at the level of ppt. The work involved developing the appropriate sensor arrays, software/hardware to process sensor information, a gas based and mechanical sampling system and an effective prototype at a competitive price. To ensure that cork properties and quality would not be affected, two kinds of stoppers were considered. One was natural cork and the other agglomerated based cork. Results were successful and have been disseminated at events and conferences and via the project website. Commercialisation of ENCORK technology can benefit end users and boost sales in the wine industry.
Wine bottling, ENCORK, cork stoppers, cork taint, haloanisole compounds, TCA