Alternative Wine Bottle Closures
When it comes to wine bottle closures, natural corks used to be pretty much the standard. Even bringing up the idea of purchasing wine with cork alternatives, like screw caps, was frequently frowned upon 20 years ago.
Still, it’s hard to argue that natural cork bottle closures have primarily withstood the test of time. The reality is that cork is an excellent wine bottle closure and is preferred by most consumers.
Today, however, we have a better understanding of why wine cork replacement became an important issue.
The Cork Taint Problem
The surge of global wine production coupled with the lack of best practices eventually shifted the court of public opinion against cork producers.
Winemakers’ decision to experiment with cork alternatives was influenced by concerns about sustainability and quality. However, for some people, the quality of the product itself was more important than the sustainability aspect.
While just about 5% of cork-enclosed bottles have cork taint, some winemakers believed that was too much to handle.
Alternative Wine Closures
Wine cork substitutes are now used to store more than 30% of the wines on the market. There are many different kinds, which we categorize below. All of these deviate from tradition, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but it must be considered in context.
Next-generation wine cork substitutes perform well. They look fantastic, even seductive, and are more in line with the industrialized bottling process.
The following are some of the most commonly used alternative wine closures today:
The idea is that these perfectly smooth, uniformly colored corks could be mistaken for genuine corks. They maintain the corkscrew and cork-popping routine but close the bottle more predictably and cost-effectively.
Screw caps are easy to open and are often composed of aluminum with a neutral plastic liner to seal with the bottle. Since they form a nearly perfect seal with the bottle, there is almost no bottle variation. Because of this, these are favored for wines that will be consumed within a year or two of bottling.
Vino-Seal / VinolokZork
Vino-seal is commonly referred to as a glass wine cork, but the seal is a circular polymer disk that is taste-neutral, alcohol- and acid-resistant. It even mimics the natural cork’s oxygen transmission.
As a result, they, too, carry the mandate of shorter cellar times. Their main disadvantages are that they are expensive and do not work well with most bottling machines. This leads to higher bottling costs and labor.
Zork is a wine closure alternative for still wines. It seals like a screw cap and pops like a cork and was invented by the same-named Australian company.
Three components make up the closure:
- an outer cap that acts as a tamper-evident clamp and snaps onto the band of a bottle with a conventional cork mouth.
- an inner metal foil that, like a screw cap, provides an oxygen barrier.
- an inner plunger that produces the ‘pop’ during extraction and reseals after use.
It was introduced in 2010 as the first sparkling wine-specific on-bottle, resealable closure.
These have been used behind the scenes for years for sparkling wines. Before delivery, the conventional champagne cork would be switched out. Nowadays, producers often ship their bottles with their crowns on.
Although they are quite good, opening one of these is more like opening a beer bottle.
The Bottom Line
Even though alternative closures have their place, there is something about popping a cork that adds a touch of sophistication to the table. Overall, winemakers, sommeliers, and collectors agree that all types of closures have a place in the market as long as the wine is consistently excellent.
This blog post is part of CABLE WINE SYSTEMS‘ series on the Storage Of Wine and Aging Of Wine.
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