Do corks made from oak bark add any oak flavors to wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Since wine corks are made from oak tree bark, does the cork add additional oak notes to the wine?

—John, Fullerton, Calif.

Dear John,

You're right that corks are made from the bark of cork oaks, and of course, oak barrels impart lots of flavors and aromas to wine. The charring, or "toasting," of the inside of the barrel has a lot to do with that flavor too, however.

Can cork influence the flavor of the wine? It’s not a universally agreed-upon notion, but I’ve had conversations with plenty of winemakers who remarked that they believe the cork does influence the flavor.

An article in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry explained that because cork is made from trees, trees have phenolics, and there are compounds created when these cork phenols interact with other chemical compounds already existing in wine. The researchers even gave these new compounds the most adorable name: “corklins.”

They suggest that corklins can affect both the color and astringency of wine over time—which might be a pro or a con. Of course, the ratio of wine to the end of the cork is pretty small. I have a feeling there’s a lot more research to be done before everyone is on the same page about corklins.

—Dr. Vinny

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