To Cork or Not To Cork

Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle

About The Book

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."

About The Author

Photograph by Ruy de Brito e Cunha

George M. Taber is the author of Judgment of Paris, the 2006 wine book of the year for Britain's Decanter magazine. His 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 Foundation Award for best book on wine and spirits and the Andre Simon Award for best wine book. Before turning to writing wine books, Taber was a reporter and editor for Time.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (October 9, 2007)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416571490

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Raves and Reviews

"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)

"In 'To Cork or Not To Cork,' Mr. Taber does an able job of telling the story of the cork industry's early history, its rise to global monopoly status and the recent search for alternatives. "

-- Wall Street Journal

"'To Cork or Not To Cork' reads like a novel. While the book contains some scientific terminology and at times appears to be highly technical, even a non-scientist can understand it, and it's an easy and fascinating read."
-- Napa Valley Register

"No matter where you stand on the great debate over corks -- love 'em, hate 'em, or still undecided -- To Cork or Not to Cork: Tradition, Romance and the Battle for the Wine Bottle by George M. Taber, gives the subject a timely and thorough examination. Taber is a good storyteller and the book reads and flows easily."

-- Wine Spectator Online

"Taber is well-qualified to tell the story. He was the Time magazine correspondent on the scene in Paris for the 1976 blind tasting that proved American wines could not only hold their own but beat the best of the French. His 2005 book on the tasting, 'Judgment of Paris,' is the theme for two movies now in preproduction."

-- Chicago Tribune

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