TOFWERK Service Partner Provides TCA Testing for Cork Producers

Suber Lab – Vocus Cork Analyzer Service Provider

Suber Lab (Sardinia, IT) is an Italian innovative start-up with an analytical laboratory focusing on scientific research in food and flavor, with a special emphasis on corks and wine. It was founded by three researchers from TOFWERK, the company that patented the Vocus Cork Analyzer technology and validated it in a peer-reviewed publication as the first industrial method for the quantification of TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole) in cork.

Suber Lab collaborates with TOFWERK for the dissemination of the VCA technology and its establishment as the new standard for TCA analysis in natural cork stoppers for all high-quality cork and wine producers. The goal of Suber Lab is to use its in-house Vocus Cork Analyzers to make innovative TCA screening more widely available, including to small cork and wine producers.

Are you a small cork producer with a limited amount of high-end cork products? Or are you a big producer interested in testing VCA technology before considering a future investment?

In both cases, you can reserve time slots with Suber Lab for the screening and sorting of your whole top cork production or simply carry out evaluations with large batches of cork stoppers (sample size > 10’000 units) to test your products with VCA technology.

Contact Suber Lab to book a free demo or reserve your TCA analysis time slot!

TCA Analysis and Screening

Over the past two decades, technological development has improved the sensory quality of cork stoppers for wine, allowing for the removal of the contaminant TCA through industrial processes. 

However, this TCA extraction is not 100% effective on natural cork stoppers, where it is limited to the surface, potentially leaving TCA inside. From there, the TCA can still migrate toward the surface and into the wine over the years.

Today, especially for high-end cork stoppers used to close the most prestigious wines, it is necessary to individually screen every single cork stopper with a non-destructive analytical technique in order to guarantee that all the corks sold to wineries are TCA-free.

Unfortunately, most rapid, non-destructive analytical techniques used today for quality control in the cork industry, such as fast GC-ECD, IMS, PDID or gas sensor-based methods are affected by significant rates of false negatives. These corks pass the quality control step even though they actually contain TCA. This is due to the low sensitivity and different analytical interferences of these techniques.

Human noses still play an important role in the non-destructive cork screening process, where a single panelist often sniffs more than 2,000 samples per day. This approach not only has health and safety implications for workers, but also lacks objectivity. It unavoidably leads to sensory saturation, causing a high rate of false negatives and positives, since TCA is an olfactive suppressor agent.

The TOFWERK Vocus Cork Analyzer

Today a high-tech solution for TCA problem in cork is finally a reality: the TOFWERK Vocus Cork Analyzer (VCA), the world fastest and most sensitive TCA and off-flavor analyzer for the cork industry. 

The Vocus Cork Analyzer is a high throughput auto-sampler coupled to a high resolution TOF mass spectrometer. These combined technologies non-destructively test individual natural cork stoppers for the presence of TCA and other off-flavors and automatically sorts the stoppers according to the detected concentrations. The VCA is able to screen a single natural cork stopper in only 2 seconds, quantifying the TCA with a limit of detection of just 0.05 ng/L for TCA, with accuracy and precision superior to standard, destructive and time-consuming ISO-OIV methods.  Due to its high throughput, a single VCA system is able to analyze 1,800 corks/hour and about 10 million cork stoppers per year, resulting in a very fast return on investment. 

In recent years, different cork producers, including Ganau and Parramon have installed VCA systems at their facilities for the screening of their high-end natural corks and the market demand for the product is rising.