There are a huge selection of closure choices for producers– all of which have different strengths and weak points in terms of the ability to protect red wine for long or short durations, consumer understanding, and ecological effect. We spoke to vintners to find out which closures they prefer, and why.
— By Kathleen Willcox
Produced from the bark of the Quercus suber (aka the cork oak tree), cork is grown primarily in Portugal and Spain– under rigorous protection. One tree, over its lifespan of 175+ years, can provide corks for around 4,000 bottles.
Photo by Mathis Jrdl on Unsplash
“We believe cork is the very best example of a regenerative, recyclable, and sustainable resource when it comes to closures,” says Frank Paredes, president of Now Wine Imports. “It is also exceptional when it concerns aging red wines for long periods, and is viewed as premium.”
Undoubtedly, 91percent of the world’s top 100 Wines of 2021 (per Wine Spectator), were under cork.
Pros: It is a sustainable and recyclable conservation method that is effective for both long-and short-term aging and increases the perception of top quality, exceptional wine products.
Cons: While manufacturers have actually gotten rid of issues around cork taint, it still takes place, with some price quotes saying it impacts as much as 10 percent of bottles. Over an extended period of time, cork can dry out and fall apart. It costs more than other options.
Makers: Cork Supply (which touts taint-free corks), Amorim.
Technical corks, made from littles genuine cork, are produced to remove TCA.
“We developed Diam twenty years ago to provide manufacturers with the advantages of cork without the negatives,” states Francois Margot, the sales director for Diam in The United States And Canada. “Due to the fact that punch cork is essentially the bark of the tree, the product is going to vary significantly depending on what part of the trunk it originated from. There can be high inconsistency in terms of cork taint, flexibility, and oxygen transfer.”
By breaking down the cork and getting rid of molecules associated with cork taint, then putting them back together, Margot says they eliminated all three problems.
Picture Courtesy of Diam
Micro-agglomerated corks will appeal most to cork traditionalists who want to remove cork taint issues. The most premium versions can age wines for years, with a controlled level of oxygen transfer. Agglomerated corks include micro little bits of cork, but also granulated cork dust; they are more affordable, however wine ageability is slashed.
Pros: TCA totally free, made for both short and long-term cellar-aging, offered at various cost points.
Cons: The production procedure adds to the carbon footprint. Some less expensive alternatives do not enable long-term aging.
Producers: Diam, Amorim.
Photo Courtesy of Normacorc
These corks are made from plastic or plant-based materials, and have actually been designed to remove the threat of cork taint. Walla Walla’s L’Ecole No. 41 utilizes standard cork closures for all of their premium white-label red wines (conserve the Luminesce), while all of their heritage black label red wines live under Vinvention’s Nomacorc, which is made from sugar walking stick and is recyclable.
“We like that it’s totally eco-friendly,” says Constance Savage, L’Ecole’s basic manager and COO. “And we likewise like the Nomacorc because it looks and runs like a standard cork. We’re truly happy with the feel and efficiency of the Reserva, which has very low oxygen ingress, and permits you to either consume the wines right now, or cellar them.”
Pros: Plant-based stoppers are recyclable, naturally degradable and the ones produced by Nomacorc are carbon-neutral. They are simple to extract and do not collapse if they dry out. Comparably inexpensive to other closure types.
Cons: Plastic corks do not biodegrade, and they are viewed as less premium. While technology has enhanced, red wines closed with a synthetic cork might not age as well as conventional cork after five years.
Manufacturers: Nomacorc (produced by Vinventions), Diam.
Cork taint began the alternative closure motion in 1964. Peter Wall, then the head of Australia’s Yalumba, requested an alternative after a rash of tainted bottles, and ultimately a cap called the Stelvin was created.
While it is still derided as a “cheap” closure by numerous, others like the convenience.
“We utilize a few various closures here, and we absolutely utilize natural cork for our highest end wines,” says Gina Hennen, wine maker at Adelsheim Vineyard in Newberg, OR. “Most of our red wines are in screwcap though. We’ve tried technical corks, but we have actually tested them against screwcaps designed to transfer oxygen gradually gradually, and we discover they perform better, and with more consistency.”
Alisa Jacobson, wine maker at Turning Tide, concurs.
“I make food-friendly, fresh red wines that prepared to drink on release,” Jacobson states. “I pick screwcaps for those ones due to the fact that it secures the fragrance and tastes really well. The ones intended for longer aging still go under cork though.”
Turning Tide white wines selects their closure types based upon item and target customer./ Picture by Tim Carl
Pros: White wine under cap can now be aged long-lasting. They’re affordable and easy to open (and reseal).
Cons: The production of screwcaps generates a lot of waste and can have a harmful result on the air and water. They are made from nonbiodegradable aluminum, lined mostly with plastic, and while they can be recycled, most get trashed. Some state screwcaps can create reductive qualities.
Makers: Stelvin (produced by Amcor). Image Thanks To Vinolok
In European wineries– particularly in Germany, where they were developed– glass corks are a regular sight. But they are still a rarity in the U.S.
“I like glass closures,” states Remy Drabkin, winemaker at the Willamette Valley’s Remy White wines. “They carry out along with traditional cork, aging long-lasting. I began utilizing them about 15 years ago, but ever since, the cork market has cleaned up its act, and cork taint isn’t as big of an issue. So now I utilize them and cork interchangeably.”
Pros: No cork taint, tight seal, doesn’t lead to reductive odors.
Cons: They confuse customers.
Kathleen Willcox writes about red wine, food and culture from her home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She is acutely thinking about sustainability issues, and the business of making ethical beverages and food. Her work appears regularly in Wine Searcher, Red wine Enthusiast, Liquor.com and numerous other publications. Kathleen also co-authored a book called Hudson Valley White Wine: A History of Taste & & Terroir, which was published in 2017. Follow her white wine expeditions on Instagram at @kathleenwillcox