Put simply, wine corks are the most popular stopper method for a bottle of wine. There are even many wine enthusiasts out there who claim that this is the superior method, making the wine age and taste better. But do we understand how corks work and the different types? As this variety can affect the ageing process of wine, we’re examining what you should be looking out for. This week, we’re bringing you the Ideal Wine Company’s guide to everything you need to know about corks. Let’s get started…
Where do corks come from?
Cork bottle stoppers are made from the bark of cork oaks. It’s interesting to note that the tree is not cut down and only up to half of the bark is removed at any one time. This is a highly skilled, labour intensive process with special tools and complicated logistics. Imagine peeling the delicate bark from a massive tree, cutting it into uniform sheets and transporting it to the processing plant without breaking it. These are reasons why cork closures are more expensive, and why there is some pressure to move to alternative closures.
How sustainable are corks?
While corks are by no means a perfect product for sustainability, they are better options than plastic – which takes centuries to break down fully – and aluminium – which takes a lot of energy to make. All this means that cork has stood up very well to synthetic closures in terms of sustainability and environmental impact. While it may not be perfect, corks are the best option we have at the moment for our environment. So, treat yourself to that extra bottle of cork-stopped wine, you are helping the environment after all!
What are the different types of cork?
- 100% natural cork stoppers: This is perhaps the most popular cork – and is probably the one that comes to mind when you think of corks. This is the only cork stopper you should trust for ageing wine much beyond 5 years or so, because its spongy flexibility keeps its seal viable the longest.
- Colmated corks: Essentially, this is a natural cork stopper, but with its pores filled with glue and sawdust. Doing this does have some benefits, such as they look smoother and glide out of the bottle when you pull them. While they’re not as good for longer ageing processes, they still work fine for medium ageing.
- Multi-piece cork: This is two or more large cork pieces glued together. These are denser than single piece corks, and are a way the cork manufacturers can use up their scraps. These are also the only way to make giant corks for giant bottles. While these are useful in some situations, it’s important to note that they aren’t to be trusted for prolonged ageing.
- Agglomerated corks: Basically, these are a plug made of cork dust and glue. It’s cheaper, pretty dense, and not to be trusted to seal your wine beyond 1 year or so.
Just because your wine has a cork in it, doesn’t mean it will last forever. With so many different types of cork out there, familiarising yourself with what they do can go a long way in saving your precious wine from ruin. By knowing what you’re stopping your wine with, you’re sure to get the maximum enjoyment out of all your delicious wine.