When it comes to quality, the different types of corks for bottling wine have a fundamental role in the preservation of organoleptic properties and all the characteristics of the final product.
As a matter of fact, the cork does not only serve as a bottle sealer in order to avoid product oxidation when air comes in. The type of cork used also determines the way chemical and olfactory characteristics are maintained in the bottled product before consumption, assuring that all the qualities of the wine in question are preserved.
The materials used for cork production are many, though in ancient times they used to employ actual cork, glass, or, if those two were not available, wood pieces wrapped in cloth.
Nowadays, the most used material for quality wines is definitely cork, though plastic and metal stoppers too are used to seal bottles, as well agglomerated cork, or even synthetic materials such as silicone or other industrial materials especially patented for other types of wine. The market does not really allow for imperfections in the stopper, as over time they might and will change the quality of the product. Another important fact about corks is that the type to be used will depend on the type of wine to be bottled. Let’s dive in!
The choice of the type of cork for bottling wine generally depends on the time when the bottle will be consumed. Basically, wines meant to be consumed within a short time can be sealed with synthetic stoppers, or agglomerates of medium-sized cork grains. Real cork, also known as ‘one-piece’, is more expensive, and it is preferred for middle and long aged wines.
Stopper choices can also depend on what the market requires: synthetic or plastic stoppers are less expensive, and some even present excellent characteristics that come very close to those of the cork one-piece, which is more expensive but breathable. Let’s have a look at them:
Synthetic stopper: to be used for wines meant to be consumed within a short time. Synthetic corks present very similar characteristics to those in cork, with the only difference being breathability. This is the reason why they are not recommended for wines that will be aged for a longer period of time, as they need actual cork stoppers that allow breathability.
Cork stopper: they are natural and highly breathable. They allow gas exchanges and are the basis of aged wines maturation.
Agglomerated cork stoppers: to be used for wines meant to be consumed within a short time. They are made of agglomerates of cork grains, and they are assembled with food-based glues. Moreover, they are cheap and are used for still and sparkling wines.
1 + 1 or 2 + 0 stoppers: these corks are composed of a central part made of the agglomerate, and two or one cork discs at both sides of the stopper. They are recommended for short and medium aged wines.
Plastic stoppers: to be used for wines meant to be consumed within a short time. They can be mushroom, hammer, crown or screw shaped.
The best wine stoppers
Despite the versatility of the latest materials, the best wine stopper material is still cork. Depending on the use of the bottle and due to the high cost of real cork, real cork stoppers are not recommended for some wines, especially those meant to be consumed within a short time. If the wine is of high quality and the ageing period is higher, then the best choice should definitely be real cork.
Real cork possess a characteristic that other types of stoppers lack, or partially have: breathability, which allows for the gas exchange inside the bottle over the ageing period. The only inconvenience is moulding on the cork stopper, and for this reason the bottles have to be preserved in adequate places with optimal temperature and pressure.
Why is cork the best material for wine stoppers?
Cork is a natural material obtained from the bark of cork oaks. The time required for the natural formation and regeneration of the bark covers intervals of decades, so the price of a cork stopper far exceeds that of synthetic materials.
But the question is still the same: why is the cork stopper so important for wine? The natural qualities of cork are highly prized in winemaking: basically, the breathability that cork naturally has is not present in synthetic stoppers, or are only partially present in the latest generation of cork stoppers such as cork microgranulates.
Wine vacuum stopper: how it works
Sometimes, once a bottle of wine has been opened, it may not be possible to consume it completely. It is however possible to preserve the wine once opened, keeping its qualities intact, thanks to a vacuum wine stopper that sucks the air inside the opened bottle, thus preventing oxidation. It is a wine stopper that vacuums air, but how does it work in the end?
Basically, it is a small tool capable of generating a vacuum inside the previously opened bottle. The air that has flowed inside can never go away, even if we cap the bottle or use home remedies to seal it. With the air vacuum wine stopper, the air contained inside is eliminated, allowing the wine to be preserved without degradation for up to a month after opening.