The Innocork® Process
Our proprietary Innocork® TCA extraction process has truly revolutionized what quality means for natural cork closures. Available exclusively from Cork Supply, Innocork is an award-winning competitive advantage that's simply too powerful to ignore — giving you all the benefits of natural cork closures and virtually eliminating the risk of cork taint.
Through years of dedicated experimentation and development, Cork Supply has both solved the technological challenges of extracting TCA from natural corks and applied our solution on an industrial scale. The proven solution is Innocork — our patented process that uses a combination of water vapor, ethyl alcohol and controlled temperature to volatize TCA molecules and other unwanted off-aromas from the cell structure of corkwood. Moreover, Innocork delivers better sensory uniformity while retaining the cell structure, elasticity, permeability and other mechanical properties that make natural cork an ideal wine closure.
How Innocork Works
Premium natural corks are loaded into a stainless steel chamber. Under a controlled temperature, an airflow mixture of water vapor and ethyl alcohol is introduced to the corks. The water vapor at this moderate temperature provides an ideal condition to promote the easy breakage of bonds between TCA molecules and the cork matrix. The ethyl alcohol — which naturally poses a stronger molecular attraction to TCA than cork does — extracts TCA molecules from the cork and into the moving airflow. The ethyl alcohol also prevents re-adsorption by the corks as the airflow moves around them towards the exit vents. When the corks exit the chamber, they are mechanically intact and virtually free of TCA and other unwanted off-aromas.
The Innocork Difference
While there are other methods used to reduce TCA levels in cork closures, Innocork is different in several important ways.
First, Cork Supply applies Innocork to every natural cork lot we produce, and only after each lot has been tested within our quality acceptance limit of < 1.5ng/L, a releasable TCA level typically undetected by human senses. Innocork is not used to bring rejected cork lots exceeding our < 1.5 ng/L acceptance threshold into compliance. We use Innocork only on cork lots already assured to be < 1.5 ng/L (generally, well below < 1.0 ng/L), with the dual aim of completely minimizing potential TCA and improving sensory uniformity in these already clean corks. Innocork is not used to make bad corks good; Innocork is used only to make good corks great.
Second, Innocork is proven effective in extracting TCA from whole natural corks. Other industry treatments apply extreme conditions (e.g. microwave, super-critical fluid and live steam) to cork granules used in making technical corks. These methods are too aggressive to be used on whole natural corks, for they damage the very cell structure that gives cork its compressibility, elasticity, permeability and other ideal mechanical properties. Only Innocork has proven both gentle and effective enough for whole natural corks.
Third, Innocork uses ethyl alcohol — a safe, natural agent that's common to wine. In fact, using controlled conditions to maximize extraction and prevent re-adsorption, Innocork basically mimics the natural organic chemistry that can occur inside a wine bottle if releasable TCA were present in its cork. Innocork just does it prior to bottling, to ensure it doesn't happen after.