Detecting TCA in Wine and Corks

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Wines can make or break customers. A perfect balance of its various aromas produces the best flavor in wines. However, there are many factors that set back the flavor of wine. Cork taint is one such factor. It is a kind of wine fault that consists of undesirable tastes or smells in a wine bottle and only gets detected after aging, bottling, and opening, regardless of the quality and price level.

The main cause of cork taint is the presence of 2,4,6 TCA in wine, which in many cases is transferred from the cork itself. TCA, an acronym for 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, does not happen naturally.

The precursors to TCA occur in the wood of the cork tree and TCA is formed when these hydrocarbons react with chlorine, which is used to bleach corks before use. TCA is a fungal metabolite of 2,4,6-trichlorophenol and has a distinct odor, mostly resembling the smell of a moldy newspaper, wet dog, damp cloth or damp basement. This compound is one of the key factors that contributes to the issue associated with moldy corks. Just a small amount of this compound is sufficient to contaminate wine barrels.

Advanced Electronic Nose

Hence, it is important to detect TCA. Yet, it is very difficult to detect the presence of TCA in cork or wine because this compound exists in wine with many other compounds with part per million concentration levels. As a result, an efficient medium is required to detect TCA. Electronic Sensor Technology addresses this requirement with its next-generation electronic nose, known as zNose®. Just like humans, this device rapidly detects 2,4,6 TCA in wine aroma and corks. It is also the first electronic nose to achieve same or better sensitivity to 2,4,6 TCA similar to wine experts. Given that hydrocarbons dominate the entire process of wine, countless numbers of other hydrocarbons are present in wine and wine production, which can either destroy or enhance the wine quality. zNose® technology can analyze and quantify the hydrocarbons in wine with molecular weights ranging between 50 and 300 approximately.

zNose® - A Portable, Handheld Instrument

zNose® is a compact, portable, handheld instrument that employs ultra-fast gas chromatography and sensor acoustic wave (SAW) detectors. A small experiment was carried out to check the effectiveness and efficiency of zNose®. Here, a set of 10 neutral wine solutions identified by a panel of experts obtaining TCA were employed. The aroma of each sample was then tested to see if this advanced electronic nose is able to detect the TCA in the wine aroma. The zNose® easily detected and measured even the slightest amount of TCA present in the aroma of each wine.

The corks are not responsible for all TCA contamination. Such contaminations could also come from persistent microbiological activity within the winery itself. In addition, PCP-treated wood used in shipping containers and in the construction of wine cellars could easily contaminate the barrels, atmosphere, corks, tanks, wines and everything else present within the cellar.

The portable zNose® is used as an ambient air monitor, and it efficiently detects tainting vapors, including TCA contamination, at sub-ppt levels with excellent precision, accuracy and speed. It is an effective electronic nose designed for checking and quantifying cleanliness in bottles and other containers employed for the storage and production of wines. The zNose® can monitor fragrance concentration that supports the bouquet and overall good taste of wines. The device is cost-effective, efficient and can also measure over 320 samples in just one day. The zNose® tool is a one-stop solution that helps to keep a quality check on the produced wines, alleviates rejection and gains customer satisfaction.


This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Electronic Sensor Technology.

For more information on this source, please visit Electronic Sensor Technology.

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