Comparing Wine Closures

How cork differs from synthetic or screw caps


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Real cork

Real corks are the traditional closure for premium wines. Because the reasons behind that are many, it is difficult to remove this sentimental association from the marketplace. There is a lot working in favor of authentic cork closures continuing to be chosen as the closure for premium wines.

Chief among them is the simple fact that cork is a natural product that carries with it the lowest carbon footprint of any closure, in turn helping to support well-managed and ecologically important cork forests. The wine industry’s use of cork also helps to subsidize the cork materials made from scraps of bottle closure production, which has introduced cork to a number of industries which would otherwise not be served.

The downside of cork is and has remained TCA. That little molecule responsible for so-called ‘corked’ wines generally comes from infected corks, though dirty barrels and even hoses have also harbored TCA. The most prevalent cause of tainted wines continues to be cork closures. Whether that number is the 1% claimed by the cork board or the 10% anecdotal rate often mentioned by people in the business, it is a problem., Until the TCA problem is resolved, the door remains open for the whole gamut of alternative closures.

Photo courtesy of FLOP DESIGN via Flickr/CC

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Comments

  • Gregory,
    Great article. Here is another topic that just came to mind when reading the points about carbon footprint and saving. My wife says it is so sad we don't have a creative way to re-use wine bottles. We are not near a glass re-cycling center; and even then we are not sure all of those take colored glass. Have you seen any unique or other re-usable way to not have to throw away wine bottles?

    Nov 03, 2011 at 1:40 PM


  • Snooth User: Soulkeeper
    194063 10

    I agree, great article. I seem to remember a restaurateur telling me once that there was a push by the EU for synthetic corks. I don't know if there is any truth to that or not.

    On the bad cork issue, here' a link to some information that might be of interest. It appears if the materials used to make corks are exposed to microwaves micro-organisms are killed and chemical contamination is reduced.

    http://ec.europa.eu/research/rtdinf...

    Nov 03, 2011 at 2:59 PM


  • If you go to my Napa Valley Blog post you will see what one winemaker's view is on closures and why?
    http://www.winecountrygetaways.com/...

    Nov 03, 2011 at 3:22 PM


  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,420

    I have been very pleased with screw caps since they were introduced. I'm not enchanted, at all, with the synthetic corks. I've heard that the Vino-Loks are very effective, but have yet to run into them.

    On the green side, Cuvaison Winery in Napa Valley participates in a natural cork recycling program with a Missouri company called Yemm & Hart. The recycled corks are used to manufacture things such as shoe soles, fishing rod handles, bulletin boards, place mats, flooring tiles, building insulation, gaskets, packaging materials, under playground equipment, and as a soil amendment in compost.

    Nov 03, 2011 at 4:13 PM


  • Snooth User: rwbrostrom
    182376 14

    Since I believe global warming is such a shame and really nothing more than the current hang for disaffected communists, I loose interest in any article that hints of global warming, carbon footprints and all the rest. Wake up America and realize all these environmental nuts wants more and more regulation to cripple our country. Because no matter what is done it is never, ever enough. What shocks me is how many people buy into it. Oh well!!

    Nov 03, 2011 at 4:33 PM


  • For recycling bottles,many people use their bottles as edging on their gardens (just stick the necks in the ground) or the Africans use blue bottles to hang in their trees or on metal stands in their gardens, In Austin, Texas they crush bottles and make a sparkling "mulch" that is used in parking lots and some people use the glass in their gardens just like stone.(they give it free to the public) I make artwork out of corks. I used corks as the back splash in our wine cellar and I have made figures out of corks. Just use your imagination!

    Nov 03, 2011 at 4:50 PM


  • Gregory, thanks for a well-done article on a topic of interest to both the trade and wine consumers.

    As a representative of Nomacorc, the world's largest alternative cork manufacturer, I'm pleased to see you recognize the significance of co-extruded synthetic closures, or - as you wrote in your article - the two-part products made of a foam core and elastic outer shell. Our patented co-extruded closures excel in consistency and performance, and protect wine from cork taint, oxidation and reduction. And, unlike many people assume, our synthetic closures are fully-recyclable and use a zero-waste lean manufacturing process. We even have an initiative with TerraCycle to collect and upcycle all wine closures.

    Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJZ7... for more information.

    Jeff Slater

    Nov 03, 2011 at 5:46 PM


  • I agree with rwbostrom that global warming is a "shame," and not a sham.

    The accepted wisdom with real corks is that they allow passage of gas, which is supposedly essential for the aging of the wine. You hear the talk about screw caps being okay on wines you don't want to age, but should never be used on long-aging wines. I often wonder about the truth of this though. Consider that the cork is tightly compressed to fit into the bottle and is then sealed up with foil or in some cases wax. The diffusion of air would be extremely low under such circumstances. I wonder if proper measurements have ever been made of this.

    Nov 03, 2011 at 7:38 PM


  • Snooth User: lukeott
    951562 19

    Please forgive me if I have missed something in this article or if has been talked about before. They make a synthetic cork with a layer of thin cork that is on the inside of the bottle.

    Nov 03, 2011 at 10:52 PM


  • foam corks are best with outside wrapper, especially if you use a screwpull. Many magnums still use real corks but they are a good application for a screwtop to facilitate storage. Hard rubber corks are the toughest to remove and ought to be banned. Greg ought to elaborate on having a cork for O2 transfer -- is any transfer needed on a fine wine and, if so, at what point does oxidation set in ruining it completely. I'm thinking a fine wine should be totally sealed if kept for 5-10 years -- how does one know if the transfer is small or large and what the wine needs precisely... We're now leaning to box wines for quaffers because the price is best and quality near other medium priced 80-85 rated wines. Bota malbec for instance at $ 16.99 in NJ for 3 liters is quite good -- having tried most of the boxes(red, at least) their only shortfall is lack of complexity(opinion). Being in the solar business, Global warming I think is real, but wine sealing alternatives are a drop in the bucket issue in the larger picture.

    Nov 04, 2011 at 4:46 AM


  • I've been persuaded for some time by the director of my favourite vineyard that screw top closures are fine for wine that is intended for drinking in the not-too-distant future. Indeed all white wines from his vineyard in Duras are now screw top. Red wines are all cork closure but one problem he has is maintaing the quality of these cork closures over time - he's paying more and more each year for good quality cork and the cost of each cork is far more expensive than the cost of each bottle. Screw tops have a big price advantage it seems.

    However he shares Gregory's view about synthetic 'corks' - that they're not an effective closure for any wine that needs to be kept, and are often a pain to get out of the bottle. Which brings me to the point of this contribution. The critical difference between screw top (good) and synthetic (bad) closures is that you always know when you're buying one but you often don't know when you're buying the other. Are there any moves afoot to require wine producers to identify the type of closure on their labels? Then those of us suspicious of synthetic closures can avoid them before we strip off the top of our first bottle in a case to discover we've accidently bought a closure we don't like.

    Nov 04, 2011 at 6:12 AM


  • May we just mention the SOUND of an opening?

    For many of us, the "pop" of a cork emerging from a bottle is part of the true experience of wine, an introductory announcement like the gavel before a speech, or the tap of a conductor's baton.

    How sad to sacrifice that...

    http://www.sedimentblog.com

    Nov 04, 2011 at 8:17 AM


  • Snooth User: Gavilan Vineyards
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    517320 40

    excellent article.

    Nov 04, 2011 at 9:56 AM


  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,420

    Peter Robin makes an excellent point about not knowing if the stopper under a capsule is cork or synthetic. The buyer is in the dark on this.

    The people behind the obnoxious Garth Lockwood are missing a pretty good marketing opportunity. They should create some sort of "Genuine Cork" seal or sticker to go on bottles that use cork stoppers. Analogous to the "Intel Inside" signs that they used to (maybe they still do) append to PC ads and boxes.

    Nov 04, 2011 at 2:22 PM


  • Any research out there about Zorks and other alternative closures?

    Nov 06, 2011 at 7:27 PM


  • Snooth User: gummybear
    977759 30

    The Vino-Lok concept fascinates me. Has anyone seen it used? What wines? I'm curious as to whether or not you can use it to seal open wines and if it would keep open bottles fresh. As a newbie to wine, when I look for new wines to try I only buy naturally corked since someone told me that the screw tops were for lesser quality wines. I see they were mistaken and there's a lot of wines that I never even considered and am sadly missing out on. Can't wait to go back to the store with this new perspective.

    Nov 22, 2011 at 1:04 AM


  • The sound? Really? Are you willing to sacrifice the quality of a wine, for the POP sound? Let's put it like this; would you rather have a pop and have the doubt in your mind that your wine may be oxidized or corked because it was sealed with cork, or would you rather have no pop (screw cap), and have peace of mind that your wine won´t have the defects mentioned above.
    Also, regarding whether there is oxygen transfer on screw caps or not, the answer is yes. Studies (Australian Wine Research Institute among others) have shown that the oxygen transfer in screw caps is similar to the top quality corks (when they work).
    In Australia and NZ most (probably more than 80%) of their top reds are under screw cap.
    As an additional comment, there is the general perception that Magnum bottles age better than 750ml bottles. The reason is that the amount of oxygen transfered on both bottles is the same (under same circumstances), as the cork and bottle necks are the same size; however the amount of oxygen transfered per ml of wine is greater in smaller than bigger bottles. Therefore, the less oxygen/ml the better. And since screw caps transfer less oxygen than cork (in most cases), wouldnt screw caps be better for aging a wine?

    Jul 19, 2012 at 10:30 AM


  • amazing

    Aug 31, 2013 at 5:07 AM


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