Currently there are three ways to seal a bottle of wine: natural cork, synthetic cork and screw caps. Each method has different benefits. This article compares the pros and cons of all three methods used for sealing wine bottles.
Natural cork has been used as a wine stopper for 400 years. Natural cork is harvested from cork trees in the forests of Portugal and southern Spain. Because cork is removed from the bark tree without killing or harming the tree, it is a renewable resource. Natural cork is also biodegradable making it an environmentally responsible choice for wine manufacturers.
While the environmental factors of using natural cork are a benefit to the planet, there are several disadvantages to the wine collector. Natural cork can be difficult to remove. It is also possible for the cork to become dry and crumble during removal, leaving little bits of cork floating in the wine.
Natural cork can have imperfections that allow for oxygen to reach the wine. In fact, five percent of all bottles of wine are affected by bad corks. This has some wine makers turning to synthetic stoppers to block air from wine
Synthetic stoppers are immune to cork taint and are cheap to make. Because they are synthetic, they can also be made in any color or mold. Synthetic corks do not dry out or disintegrate.
While synthetic can be recycled, there is a concern that greater reliance on synthetic may lead to the end of cork tree forests as cork trees lose their purpose. Also, if not recycled synthetic corks can pose a more direct effect to the environment.
The debate around synthetic is due to the fact that synthetic cork completely blocks the air. Some wine experts believe that some air is beneficial to the maturation of the wine.
Wine lovers sometimes associate screw caps with cheaper wines, but many wine manufacturers all over the world (especially in the United States and New Zealand) are converting to this new sealing method. Some argue that screw caps provide a better seal for wine and eliminate oxidation problems that can occur with corking, but there is no conclusive evidence on how long screwcaps will keep a wine safe from oxidation. Most of the manufacturers of screwcaps will only guarantee the closure for 2-3 years. While this is on the conservative side, it is still telling.
As more wine producers turn to screw caps for their sealing method, the wine drinking population is becoming more comfortable with screw caps for wines of all price ranges.
The downside of using a screw cap is the absence of the dramatic “popping” sound that is made when a cork is released that many people have become accustomed to when drinking corked wine.
Purchase bottles with synthetic corks for wines meant to be consumed quickly, and natural cork for wines that are stored for a long period of time. Also, do not be turned off by bottles with screw caps. You will not be missing out on quality if you choose this method; however, you might miss the sound and anticipation of the cork leaving the bottle!
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