Although cork has enjoyed a monopoly as the wine bottle closure of choice for several hundred years, the use of cork has recently become one of the most hotly debated topics in wine today. When it comes to cork everyone seems to have an opinion, and usually it is a strong one. Unfortunately, most of these opinions are based on emotion, and few are based on fact. In To Cork or Not To Cork George M. Taber dispels much of the myth, mystery and misinformation surrounding the debate over cork.
Before To Cork or Not To Cork most of the data from studies on closures had been scattered among trade journals, conference notes and private industry. Even in the digital age, it was difficult for those whose livelihood depended it to make informed decisions about closures, and consumers were for the most part left in the dark - sometimes as strategy. Taber's ability to research a topic rivals that of David McCullough. He conducted countless interviews with winery owners, lab consultants, cork industry professionals, winemakers, and inventors and manufacturers of alternative closures. He scoured through numerous studies examining the performance of different closures, and he presents the information in a format which is both incredibly informative and entertaining. In fact, at times To Cork or Not To Cork reads more like a suspense novel than a book on cork taint.
Taber takes his readers on a journey through wine closure history from the time wine was stored in large clay amphorae and sealed with mud, to modern times in which we have primarily used cork to seal glass bottles. Recently, however, in a reaction to problems with cork quality, producers have been experimenting with closures such as the crown cap, screw cap, plastic plugs, technical corks and glass stoppers. The studies Taber cites on the performance of both cork and alternative closures are fascinating and at times complicated, but his clear and concise writing keeps those of us who were not Chemistry majors from becoming lost. His framework of poignant and entertaining anecdotes is the perfect backdrop for a subject that is probably considered mundane by most.
No matter what your opinion on closures is now, it will likely be different after reading To Cork or Not To Cork. I am not suggesting that you will shift radically from one camp to the other, but you will have much more information from which to draw. Like all great debates, each side has its merits and faults. Taber presents research and anecdotal evidence supporting both sides of the debate, and at times you might find yourself leaning toward whatever side is being presenting at the moment. Taber does not tell the reader there is right or wrong in this debate. He leaves the final verdict for the reader to decide. Even the casual wine drinker will find this book enjoyable, but for the connoisseur, collector, winemaker or cellar rat To Cork or Not To Cork is a must read.