Wine? “Real” Cork or “plastic” Corks what’s the diff??


December 22

As part of our “Wine questions series” from our web Host The Karcher Group (TKG) Jen asked “What’s the difference between cork and plastic wine bottle closures?”

Cork tree

Cork tree

Making or growing “real” cork takes a LONG time! The cork grows in oak forests in Portugal. The cork actually comes from the bark and cannot be stripped until they are twenty-five years old.

Cork!

Cork!

The trees can only be stripped once every nine years after the first stripping, and it takes to the third stripping to get to wine cork quality! Demand for cork is increasing, the prices are rising. This is where the synthetic or what many people call “plastic” cork comes in.

Mad Cow cork

Synthetic Mad Cow cork

The synthetic cork appeared in 1993 and they cost about seven cents each while natural cork is 13 to 75 cents each. Natural cork seals better but can give way to “cork taint” or TCA. Synthetic corks are only being used on bottles that are to be consumed with five years or less.

TCA is trichloroanisole results from the interaction of of mold, chlorine and phenols in cork. These chemicals are found in all plants. TCA produces a dark and moldy smell with the flavor of cardboard. Wines that develop TCA are often called “corked” wines. About 5% of all wines develop TCA, you just never know.

Chemical structure of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), the compound primarily responsible for cork taint

Chemical structure of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), the compound primarily responsible for cork taint

The screw cap is another option. The screw cap is fitted on to bottles and is quickly gaining popularity as it prevents TCA and air completely. Some people don’t like the caps because unscrewing the top takes away from the experience of drinking a bottle of wine. But they really seem to work. The machinery to use screw caps is pretty expensive for smaller wineries to implement also.

Screw cap wine cap

Screw cap wine cap

We use both kinds of corks at Maize Valley. On our dry reds and some of our dry whites we use real cork. Our fast sellers all get synthetic, our “Mad Cow” cork is highly sought after at events and in the winery.

Bottom line is if you don’t plan on keeping a wine long do not worry about synthetic corks.

If the appearance of cork when serving the wine is important it’s cool, just be aware you do stand a greater chance for that wine to be tainted. We will probably switch to screw caps as soon as we can justify the investment, that’s what I would buy no matter what the end use of the wine.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Remember you can always go back and get more wine but you can never go back and make more time!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply