A little while a go, I worte about how Decanter had moved into the debate about corks and screwcaps by siding with the screwy side of the argument. If corked wines are a huge problem – up to 12% of wines are corked, according to some wildly flung statements -, then it is time to take a stand.
But again, where do those percentages, like the 12% stated on some web sites, actually come from? Hard to tell. Nobody mentions any clear statistics, and those that have taken a personal sample of their tastings, for several hundred bottles a year, come out at much lower levels.
So is cork taint actually such a huge, wine-world-shattering problem?
Check these figures out.
Recently, a newspaper in Quebec obtained documents from SAQ about defective products returned to the stores, something they received under the Access to Information Law, which forces public bodies to deliver certain information, whether they want to or not, because of public interest. The yearly amount refunded by SAQ is 2.1 million dollars. Out of total yearly sales of 2.29 billion dollars. Not even 0.1% of a really big sample.
And that includes all defective products, whether spirits, beer or wine, and all types of defects (flat or skunky beer, oxidized products and, yes, corked wines, and so much more). Even if we were to assume that all the products were corked wines, that would still be only 0,12% of wine sales in Quebec, which amount to 1.7 billion dollars a year. And even if we multiply that figure by four or five, to account for people who don’t taste the difference, cellared bottles, people who don’t bother to bring back corked wine because of the hassle, very shy people who are scared of bringing them in, we’re nowhere near 1%.
So, tell me again: what is the big problem with corked wines already?