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To Cork or Not To Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle [Kindle Edition]

George M. Taber
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $11.02
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc


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Book Description

In Judgment of Paris, George M. Taber masterfully chronicled the historic 1976 wine tasting when unknown California wines defeated top French ones, marking a major turning point in wine history. Now he explores the most controversial topic in the world of wine: What product should be used to seal a bottle? Should it be cork, plastic, glass, a screwcap, or some other type of closure still to be invented?

For nearly four centuries virtually every bottle of wine had a cork in it. But starting in the 1970s, a revolution began to topple the cork monopoly. In recent years, the rebellion has been gathering strength. Belatedly, the cork industry began fighting back, while trying to retain its predominant position. Each year 20 billion closures go onto wine bottles, and, increasingly, they are not corks.

The cause of the onslaught against cork is an obscure chemical compound known as TCA. In amounts as low as several parts per trillion, the compound can make a $400 bottle of wine smell like wet newspaper and taste equally bad. Such wine is said to be "corked." While cork's enemies urge people to throw off the old and embrace new closures, millions of wine drinkers around the world are still in love with the romance of the cork and the ceremony of opening a bottle.

With a thorough command of history, science, winemaking, and marketing, Taber examines all sides of the debate. Along the way, he collects a host of great characters and pivotal moments in the production, storage, and consumption of wine, and paints a truly satisfying portrait of a wholly intriguing controversy. As Australian winemaker Brian Croser describes it: "It's scary how passionate people can be on this topic. Prejudice and extreme positions have taken over, and science has often gone out the window."

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Unexpectedly fascinating, this history of wine corks may sound like a book only an oenophile could love, but Taber's zingy writing and juicy anecdotes make it a genuine page-turner, even for those who prefer wine coolers to wine lists. The first chapter alone is full of intriguing facts: for instance, wine was once sealed with a slick of olive oil, and the practice of tasting wine before pouring it "actually started as a way of making sure all the oil was gone." Cork, a structurally unique substance used for sealing bottles since the Roman Empire, replaced olive oil centuries ago, but cork is not a perfect solution to the vexing problem of protecting wine: between 3 and 5 percent is tainted with a noxious chemical compound that can ruin an otherwise perfect bottle. The debate about whether or not to continue using cork has torn through the multibillion dollar wine industry, pitting traditionalists against innovators, cork farmers against scientists: "Says Brian Croser, one of Australia's leading winemakers, 'It's scary how passionate people can be on this topic. Prejudice and extreme positions have taken over, and science has often gone out the window.'" If it seems strange to harbor such passion about cork, Taber, a respected wine journalist, will do much to change your mind.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Fascinating...This discussion not only is relevant to today's wine producers and enthusiasts but will continue to stimulate interest until the 'perfect' bottle closure is developed. Highly recommended, especially in wine-producing and -consuming areas." - -- Library Journal (starred review)

Product Details

  • File Size: 2350 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0743299353
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 9, 2007)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000W912XS
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #722,916 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
In To Cork or Not To Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle George Taber reviews the car wreck that exists at the intersection where Art, Science, Commerce and Snobbery collide within the wine world. It is a tale of passion, technology, arrogance and stupidity run amuck. And it is a much more compelling and entertaining story than one might imagine.

The cork has always been an imperfect vehicle for the sealing of wine bottles. While many over the years attribute it's shortcomings to an inadequate seal of the bottle it is in fact the introduction of a chemical called tricholoroanisol (TCA) into the wine. This introduction results in a product that has all the aroma and taste of, as the author phrases it, "a moldy pile of damp cardboard". Wine connoisseurs for literally centuries have been seeking an acceptable replacement.

So, technology to the rescue in the 21st century? Perhaps not. As Taber points out there is reason to believe that "the perfect seal" may not be perfect. There is reason to believe that some air in the bottle provides for a better product over time, especially among the red wines. The cork's seal was sufficiently imperfect that small quantities of air do get introduced to the bottle over time. The replacement technologies--plastic "corks" and metal screw-off caps--do provide an essentially "perfect" seal. The result? What's know as "reduction', a process that yields a wine that tastes, as the author phrases it, "like sulfur infused rotten eggs".

Vast portions of the wine industry have rushed to the corner of one or the other technology. Australia has all but converted to the newer technologies. So have some of the highest end wineries in the US and (gulp) France.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romancing the Cork November 27, 2007
TO CORK OR NOT TO CORK outlines the history of how wine has been protected over the years utilizing wonderful stories of successes and failures in protecting the "nectar of the the gods." George Taber's historical perspectives bring light from various perspectives as to what has been used to preserve wine from the oxidizing air. Wine makers want to protect their wines and provide their buyers with the best wine possible. Customers want the romance of "poping that cork." The cork industry wants to preserve its business. Mr. Taber looks at these various perspectives and provides further alternatives, like ZORKS. This book reads well and is broken out in manageable chapters for reading. I highly recommend this book for any wine lover. It will definitely open a new perspective in wine appreciation. George Taber's expereinces in writing for a national magazine for many years plus his love for wine make this book enjoyable reading. The passion reads well in this book!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good look at something too often overlooked November 12, 2007
By Jeb
To Cork or Not to Cork is the book the wine industry - and the wine drinker - has needed for a long time. While I spent about five minutes looking into corks and screw caps, George Taber managed to research the facts on closures like a crime-scene investigator, examine them like a neurotic physicist, and yet write like an old friend telling you his engaging life story. Even if by the end of the book I still felt that jamming a piece of tree bark into the neck of a wine bottle ranks right up there with playing in the NFL without a helmet, George has helped me realize that the perfect - and perfectly preserved - bottle of wine is still a work in progress. It won't be forever, though, now that George has enlightened us all. Don't just buy the book; buy George a drink to say thanks.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read August 8, 2008
I'm a wine industry professional and this book was packed with new information that was fascinating while not being overly technical. I think my favorite parts were little facts about TCA 2,4,6. I highly recommend reading this if you ever have to deal with the question of cork vs screw cap. However it doesn't draw a definite conclusion but gives you enough information to formal an intelligent opinion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Go Cork, Get Screwed! July 19, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having read "Judgment of Paris" by this author and frankly finding it a bit of a single topic disappointment, I happily discovered in this book that not only does the author choose a subject worth a whole book, but he also makes it an exciting read! Don't get me wrong - the cork vs. screwtop vs. synthetic cork debate may not interest everyone, but if you are interested in wine (and drink it at least a few times a week) this book will entertain you with a bit of science and lots of great anecdotal points to give the topic some juice.

I've read maybe 10 wine books this Summer and this was by far my favorite. Whether you're still romanced by cork, a lover of plastic or a true lover of wine (Stelvin closures) this book thoroughly covers the topic and makes it interesting as well. Cork industry, beware!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Complex but Ill Cited December 3, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
To Cork or Not to Cork is an interesting and in-depth look at the past, present, and future of the wine closure industry. Yet, the research presented is ill cited and and not rigorously fact checked. A patent number for a synthetic stopper created by Stuart Yaniger is written in the book as 6,085,932, but upon external research it was discovered the patent number is actually 6,695,997. This error combined with a short selected bibliography has made me skeptical of the veracity of some of this research. In a book that really marks one of the first attempts at understanding the wine cork industry, it seems foolish not to disclose and provide readers with a complete bibliography of sources, interviews, and trade papers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The torchurous quest for the perfect closure
Winemakers have gone through hell to find a reliable wine-bottle closure that prevents a "corked" bottle. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Maury Logue
4.0 out of 5 stars A great, informative read.
I love these kind of books. It really gets into the science and industry of something that many of us never give a second thought to, and we really should. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Scott Schiffmacher
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative
Really gives a lot of history on wine enclosures and the many problems finding an alternative to cork. Very in depth.
Published 12 months ago by Peter Bourget
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely informative and well written
Covers wine closures over the past 2000 years extremely well.
A lot of well researched and referenced material.
Could be a text book for any wine teaching institution
Published 15 months ago by Terry Tremayne
5.0 out of 5 stars If you drink wine you need to read this.
I've lent this book to friends, some of whom have vineyards. They all applaud it's explanation of the cork/cap issue that is so dear to the hearts of those of us who engage in... Read more
Published 20 months ago by toaster
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read
Who would've thought that cork could be so interesting? But George Taber pulls it off, and provides a thorough account of cork's history and a world of alternative closures. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Michael H. Burkhardt
4.0 out of 5 stars Wine People Must Read
This is a historical book about something people don't think about when they drink wine. No one thinks about its importance but once you read this book it is as important as the... Read more
Published on March 1, 2012 by Anthony
5.0 out of 5 stars True Life Mystery / Crime Story for Wine Geeks
As a Foodie and Wine Geek, I enjoyed this book with all of the details about cork, the stories on how the alternate closures came about and the debates that are still going on... Read more
Published on June 2, 2011 by Neal
5.0 out of 5 stars Well told history of the cork with evenhanded discussion of the...
I am a neophyte wine drinker, and I purchased this book to give me some detail on this subject.

"To cork or not to cork" gave me that and much more. Read more
Published on September 22, 2009 by Wells Bengston
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book
This is a fascinating book, written by George Taber author of Judgment of Paris: California vs France, about the attempts to substitute screw-tops and synthetic corks for natural... Read more
Published on January 6, 2009 by A. Cundell
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More About the Author

George M. Taber is the author of Judgment of Paris, which recounts the story of the famous 1976 event when unknown California wines defeated top French ones. Taber was the only journalist present at that turning point in the history of wine. Taber's second book, To Cork or Not to Cork, won the Jane Grigson Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and was a finalist for the James Beard Award for best book on wine and alcohol and the Andrew Simon Award for best wine book. Before turning to writing wine books, Taber was a reporter and editor with Time magazine for twenty-one years, based in Bonn, Paris, Houston, and New York.


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