When it comes to wine, even something as mundane as a cork has a significant role in maintaining the wine’s taste and quality. That is why it is just as important to understand what they are able to do depending on the variety of corks available. You might find yourself appreciating the value of different kinds of cork and how it is able to make a difference.
A cork is designed to close a bottle of wine. But aside from that rather simple task lies a more important role, which has opened up a lot of issues today with the availability of different types of closures.
The Origin of Corks
Corks actually come from the bark of cork oaks. It is made by punching a piece of the cork strip much like using a cookie cutter through a piece of dough. What they do is to remove a part of the bark of the tree, then a meticulous and labour intensive process takes place. Removing the delicate bark and cutting it into uniformed sheets requires careful attention. They have to be transported properly to the processing plant so that they don’t break. Many companies see this to be a more expensive process, which is why they are forced to look into alternative closures.
Types of Corks
Despite new cork varieties available today, the structure of these natural cork closures serves to be perfect for ageing the wine. Wine needs oxygen for it to mature, and this type of cork allows just the right amount to enter the bottle. It is the natural compressability and elasticity of the cork that allows it to adapt to the irregularities in the bottle neck. This creates a perfect closure during storage even if the glass contracts or expands due to variations in temperature. A natural cork is even still able to provide proper closure for decades just as long as it is made of good quality wood, and the temperature levels are closely monitored.
Wooden corks now have different varieties all having their own special use. It includes the following:
100% Natural Cork Stoppers
This is a one-piece cork that is graded accordingly based on their surface. This is considered to be the best type of cork since you can trust it for proper wine aging pretty much beyond 5 years, thanks to its spongy flexibility that maintains a good seal.
This type of cork is denser than single piece corks because it is made up of two large cork pieces that are attached together. It is perfect for giant bottles but they are not appropriate for prolonged aging. However, cork manufacturers will find this design to be a good way to make use of their scraps.
Colmated corks are in a way similar to natural cork stoppers. However, the pores are filled with glue and cork dust. They are smoother to insert into the mouth of the wine bottle and it serves well for medium aging.
This type of cork is made out of cork dust and glue. They are more dense and also relatively cheaper. It is able to properly seal your wine for not more than a year.
If you inspect closely, this type of cork is actually agglomerated corks with full cork discs found on either end. These disks serve as sure way to create a uniformed seal better than agglomerated corks. It is perfect for sparkling wines because they require a much larger cork diameter so that the pressure is maintained.
However, the problem with technical corks is that they are breakable and it is even more susceptible to breaking because you would need a corkscrew to remove it. It also has the possibility of cork taint which will give the wine an aroma that is similar to wet cardboard.
There are several wine bottles that are now using screw caps. Some wine drinkers often associate this with low quality wine, but it has actually proven to enclose top quality ones. It provides the bottle a hermetic seal keeping out more air than the natural cork. It is perfect for preserving the flavours and aroma of the wine. But the problem with this variety is that the wine is also very much constricted inside and unable to breathe (or exposed to oxygen).
This type of cork is often used with petroleum-based plastic, but there are also companies that release synthetic corks that are made out of sugar cane. Plastic can give the wine a rather chemical taste to it. But this type of cork gives the wine some room to breath and doesn’t put it at risk for cork taint.
This type of cork is characterized to have an o-ring at the top. The good thing about it is that it doesn’t create any changes to the nose and flavours of the wine. It reduces oxidation, thus preserving the original aromas of the wine. However, this type of cork can be expensive resulting in pricier wines.
This type of cork requires you to peel away the protective casing. It also makes that popping sound and it is perfect for both still and sparkling wines. It puts no risk for cork taint. But the problem here is that it only fits into specially designed bottlenecks.
Just like vinolok, the production for this type of cork is also expensive, which adds a significant amount to the total price of the wine.