Sunday, 11 December 2011

Wine corks - synthetic versus natural cork


Even the finest wines can turn to vinegar if they are not stored correctly. What is more disappointing than looking forward to a treasured bottle of wine that has been lovingly stored away, only to find that when you open it, it is about to make its way from the bottle straight to the kitchen sink.

There are three important factors to consider when storing wine and they are: humidity, light and temperature. Wine corks were invented to allow enough humidity without allowing too much air into the ullage space that will cause the wine to spoil or oxidise. Even when a bottle of wine is stored under the right circumstances, lying on its side, the uppermost part of the cork can still dry out and allow air in.
Wine corks are made from the bark of a cork oak tree, commonly found in the sunny south regions of North Africa, Spain and Portugal. Corks are mainly used as bottle stoppers.

The process of producing assorted wine corks starts with the cautious cork forests husbandry that is separated into two major areas – soil care and the oak tree itself. Portugal accounts for nearly 50% of the general cork production in the world. This country possesses the ideal soil type and climate that keep the oak trees growing. Though cork tress grows in several Asian areas, only those that are harvested from Mediterranean region are measured commercial quality.   

Cork most consists of suberin. Its elasticity mixed with its impermeability makes it the most suitable material used to make bottle stoppers, particularly the bottles of wine. The assorted wine corks represent nearly 60% of the total cork based manufacture.

Four types of wine bottle corks are known and they are under four categories as well. The naturally cut corks, for one, are wine corks which are cut straight from the cork bark. This type of cork relies on the cork’s elasticity to seal a bottle. Characteristically, these are the types dubbed with the highest quality; therefore it is also the priciest. A natural cork is suggested if one has plans to store his/her wine for more than a year.

Agglomerated corks are among the assorted wine corks that are created through chipping the raw cork into tiniest pieces, after which, gluing them again together according to the preferred shape and size of the cork. In several ways, these types of corks become similar to particleboard in the industry of construction.

Synthetic corks are another type of assorted wine corks that are usually produced out of synthetic resins, thus this type will not rot or dry out. The chief benefit of choosing synthetic corks is its super heavy corker needed to be able to insert this type of cork into the bottles. Additionally, this kind is harder to pull compared to the traditional wood-made bottle corks.

Lastly is the plastic champagne cork, designed for champagne bottles. To insert this cork, a hammer must come along.  This cork surely makes a very tight seal, withholding the pressure produced by the champagne.

Corks, when inserted and pulled properly can considerably affect the storage of your wine. If you want the best tasting wine, then definitely, you need to secure one of the assorted wine corks available in the market.

Synthetic corks have been introduced and are becoming more common because of the problem of "cork taint" , caused by the presence of the chemical trichloroanisole (TCA.

There is much debate over the use of synthetic or natural cork, as environmentalists express concern over the loss of the cork forests to commercial crops such as eucalyptus and the biodegradability f synthetic corks. There is also concern that the screw cap tops are affected by sulphurdisation, which means the wine taster is confronted by a smell more like rotten eggs than the delicate bouquet of the fine wine.