The Sommelier Update is an educational blog on wine, beer, spirits and food. It started in conjunction with the Arrowhead Wine Enthusiast club, but has rapidly gained an international following from those interested in learning, enjoying and having fun with food and wine. Weekly articles on advice, service, pairing ideas, recipes, education and consultation, from a Certified Sommelier and wine educator.
The last two weeks, we looked at two of the most common wine stoppers: cork and screwcaps. It seems like there certainly is a variety of opinions. Many of you feel that cork is the only way to go, while others have had too many problems with “cork taint” and swear by screwcaps. The bottom-line seems to be the integrity of the wine, and how the closure affects the final product. Because of this, manufacturers have come up with some other options. Let’s take a look at synthetic, glass, and some new ideas.
Synthetic corks are made of plastic compounds. The production methods are either through injection molding, or extrusion. Through these processes, the manufacturer can actually duplicate the cellular structure of natural cork, and mimic the oxygen exchange rates. They offer the advantage of no cork taint, and also the “romantic” pop of the cork. I find that most synthetic corks are difficult to remove from the bottle, and sometimes hard to recork if (on that rare occasion) I don’t finish off the bottle.
Glass stoppers (also known as “vino-seal”) are another option. I remember the first time I encountered one of these. I was cutting the foil, and my blade went all the way in, and I thought, “wow, that is a really bad cork”. When I pulled the foil off, I saw a glass stopper, with a small bead of silicone, similar to a gasket. These stoppers do seal the wine well, and are very easy to open and reseal. They are recyclable, but are pretty expensive versus other closures, so haven’t caught on as fast.
There is a new closure that I saw for the first time, just a couple weeks ago. It is called a ZORK closure. I have not used one yet, but I understand that it offers the ease of opening, like a screwcap, and the pop of a cork. It consists of three parts; an outer, tamper resistant, cap; an inner metal foil which provides an oxygen barrier; and an inner plunger which creates the pop when opened.
Cork – Traditional closure. Natural, renewable resource. Biodegradable and recyclable. Good oxygen exchange. Cork taint (TCA).
Screwcaps – Practical. Easy to open. Recyclable.
Synthetic – Recyclable. Possible oxygen exchange. Sometimes tough to remove from bottle. Might impart chemical flavors to wine.
Glass – Recyclable. Limited, or no, oxygen exchange. Easy to open and reseal. Expensive.
“Cork harvesting is an environmentally friendly process during which not a single tree is cut down. The bark renews itself ready for the next harvesting. Unlike its synthetic counterparts, cork is an inherently sustainable resource, both renewable and biodegradable. Artificial plastic stoppers or screw caps on the other hand consume fossil fuels, and use at least five times more energy per ton to produce, before millions of them end up in our landfills and oceans. In comparison to the aluminum and plastic closures, the cork stopper is the best alternative in terms of non-renewable energy consumption, emission of greenhouse effect gases, contribution to atmospheric acidification, contribution to the formation of photochemical oxidants, contribution to the eutrophication of surface water and total production of solid waste.”
For me…I still like cork stoppers. What are your thoughts and experiences?