Following the prestigious International Wine Tasting competition held in Bordeaux, France this last week, a formerly unrecognized segment of wine industry workers was featured at the event. While vintners typically take all the credit for an award winning wine, the quality of the wine over time is very much in the hands of the man handling, soaking, and plugging his cork into the glistening necks of those precious bottles.
Toulouse La'Bunghole from the Pouilly Sur Loire region of France was awarded the first annual gold medal for cork handling, beating the cork soaking methods of the Italians and the artificial cork ramming technology of the Americans. "No one soaks a cork, handles a cork, or inserts a cork as good as the French", says La'Bunghole. "You have to handle the cork gently, feel the texture, and look carefully for deformities. They must have the right balance of firmness and flexibility, and the cork must be soaked for at least an hour before insertion."
While the Italians protested the judge's decision at the event, it was the French who dominated all rating categories from cork handling and cork soaking, to cork ramming. American Judge, Haywood Jablome told reporters, "Nobody beats the French in the cork soaking category, and their methods for cork washing and handling is gentle but thorough."
"It is the difference between a wine lasting for years in the cellar, or turning to vinegar", says La'Bunghole. "Once I get done ramming my cork into the neck of the bottle, there is never any leakage." La'Bunghole reportedly comes from a long line of cork soakers as well. "Yes, my great grandfather was a cork soaker too, and nobody handled a cork like my dad."
Props to SNL.