As we left off last time, many people have begun to switch from corking their wines, to putting a screw top on their bottles. As we discussed before, there are some benefits to both sides. Firstly corks have been in use for hundreds of years, removing a cork from a bottle does produce “music to my ears”, and not to mention that corks are very commonly collected. As far as screw tops go, they can be stored upright (wine enclosed with cork must be stored on its side), they are very easy to open, and also very easy to reclose.
The ongoing argument for corks is that they are the classic way to seal up a bottle of wine, the cork has even become iconic even for wine drinkers. I know that when I am choosing a bottle of wine, my company does greatly affect which bottle I will choose. That is to say that if I’m going to visit some people who I think are a little more snoody, I NEVER like to bring a screw top over, wouldn’t want them to think I’m cheap. Maybe if we broke down the cork tree a little more we could begin to understand why it has been so successful since the 17th century. Cork trees live to be about 250 years old, and in that time their bark can be harvested anywhere from twenty-five to thirty two times. The reason that cork works so well is the protective chemical called suberin, which is a waxy substance that makes the Cork Oak resistant to rot, fire, and it causes the bark to be impermeable to both liquid and gasses. Another thing about the production of cork is that it actually is a fairly eco-friendly trade also. Since the trees live so long, and the growers do what they can to preserve them, it ends up being pretty green.
Screw tops are no joke in the wine world now. Many vintners have begun turning to this relatively new method, and more than ever it really is taking off. There are several reason the obvious ones that were previously stated such as ease of opening and storage, but beyond that there are even more reasons the person making the wine would want to switch out his corks for the everyday cap. The primary reason being consistency. Perhaps the largest trouble winemakers have with corks, is that they can offer incredibly different results from one cork to another. Many studies have indicated that one cork sample can be 100 times more/less porous than any other given sample. This really does make it tricky for vintners as they have no idea which cork they are potentially sticking in their bottle, and if they are wrong they just might have some spoilage.
Corks can spoil wine not only by being too porous, but by bringing some type of pollutant into the wine. Pollutants can come in many forms first and foremost cork itself, has a flavor and a smell, if you stop your wine with a cork then it will end up effecting the aroma and the taste. Then there are the other things you have to worry about. There has been a buzz going around that screw tops are the new way to do it, here is an article that says why a lot of people have been switching to screw tops as the preferable method. It says its cheaper and more effective for the winery to bottle the wine and how people actually find the screw top easier to open and easier to store. But what about the art of wine? It seems as though people are trading tradition for convenience. There is also much talk of how some of the treatments done to the natural stoppers has caused them to become infected by Trichloroanisole , or TCA. This chemical compound has been known to cause many wines to spoil. It is at large mostly in the corks of the spoiled wine; there are other chemical compounds like this one but TCA is the most commonly found culprit.
Some people even use corks as an art form. I found several pages in which people use corks to makes all kinds of crafts. Here I found a link where the person talks about making trivets at home by using old corks and a hot glue gun. The instructor says the most important part of the process is drinking wine that has corks so that you can build you collection. If people cease to use corks, these art forms will die. people such as this artist will never be able to create their works shortly after the demand for cork dies.
If vintners do ever cease corking their wines, I will be very upset. If you make 500 cases of wine, and you end up having to replace 15 or even 50 bottles of wine due to a bad cork, so what? If everyone switches over to screw tops (won’t ever happen), then the art of removing the cork is gone. Trust me I’ve dealt with my fair share of crumbly and stubborn corks, but at the end of the day I love the cork. Don’t get me wrong I don’t walk past a good bottle of wine because of the way it is capped, but I do prefer the traditional method. Which means putting a cork in it!