Tuesday 8 July 2008

The Disappearing Cork

Zut alors! Clearly, for lovers of the wine cork - its grateful sound, its feel, its smooth action, above all its corky winey smell - it's all up, or soon will be. And it will be all up too for the unique fauna of the Iberian cork forest and for its eminently sustainable industry. Well, at least when everybody's switched to screw caps, we'll be shot of those plastic 'cork' abominations which are all but impossible to draw, smell of nothing and won't go back in the bottle. I shan't miss them - but I'll certainly miss the cork...


  1. Quite right Nige, there's something very earthy about uncorking, adds to the pleasure, especially with one of those "waiters friend" jobs. An old German colleague, who manufactured production equipment for the European wine industry had his own vintage of Rotwein, "Chateau Speidel" that was screw top, was also dreadfull, sorry Georg. Remember the immortal words from the Muppet show "care to smell the screwcap sir?"
    PS, there are some excellent German wines but they keep them for home consumption, the tripe is exported.

  2. Yes Malty - and the Italians seem to keep their good stuff back too. Can't blame them.

  3. Nige, there is one Italian wine, not to everyone's taste, we first came across it in an Italian reseraunt in Annecy many years ago, Brachetto d'Acqui its an unusual sparkling red, wonderfull served chilled on hot sunny afternoons. Sometimes difficult to come by as it' double fermented, often fails.

  4. I like the ritual, at home or in a restaurant, of uncorking, pouring a little, looking, smelling and finally tasting.

    It is not the same with a screw-top and I avoid such wines.

  5. Screw-tops significantly reduce spoilage of wine due to contamination by trichloroanisole (cork taint).
    Also, it makes little sense to "taste" wine in a restaurant when the bottle is opened by the waiter. You can only send the wine back if it tainted in some way and you should be able to pick that up by simply smelling it.

  6. Trust me - nobody who cares about wine wants their bottle to have a "corky" smell.

  7. I own a patent on an argon wine saving device (ultra wine saver on Amazon.com if you're interested). Yes, cork taint is a real concern not to mention people turning the moldy top of the cork upside to re-stopper an unfinished bottle!

    However, there are things that screw tops don't accomplish, most importantly is minimizing the "head space" in the bottle. A screw top doesn't protrude down into the bottle, which means there is more room for oxygen which then spoils your wine faster.

    Many Australian wines are using silicone instead of cork which works just fine and even our Ultra Wine Saver device ships with three silicone stoppers as part of the package. So no, the age of the screw top is not upon us.

  8. Oh my goodness, there is so much to say here.

    Malty, you are wrong on two fronts. First, the Muppet Movie (not show) quote was "bottlecap" -- different from screwcap. More importantly, the Germans actually export their best wines, from the top auslesen and TBA to the driest Grosse Gewachs (equivalent to grand crus). See Chambers St. Wines' web site from New York as proof.

    To the inventor who posted here: minute amounts of oxygen are required for proper aging and development. That is the whole point of the cork, as it allows for such oxygen transfer, and some "head space" is required for this. (Oxygen only becomes a spoiler when the bottle is opened and then kept open for days.)

    So now we reach the issue with screw caps. Stelvin (cap maker) claims that their closure allows for just this kind of oxygen transfer and with no risk of TCA from cork. Obviously, some wine makers accept this claim, some are still wary.

    What is doubtless is that cork is a sustainable industry and that using cork in wine helps maintain those Iberian forests. If the cork makers continue to aggressively combat the taint issues, there should be no reason to not use them, particularly for wines that need to age.

  9. If you think I'm going all the way to New York to buy what I can get less than 1.5 hrs from here your barmy
    PS are you sure I got the date right.

  10. Wow -- I learned a lot from these posts about wine and corks. Many, many years ago I was madly in love with an oenophile. Every time he came to see me, he brought another fabulous bottle of wine, which we drank while he regaled me with his brilliance, his travels, his knowledge of foreign languages, music, literature, blah blah. I listened and I saved the corks. After a while, seeing things in a different perspective, I realized all we ever did was sit on my couch and get drunk. There was no future to this behavior, except perhaps alcoholism.

    So I applied to grad school, got accepted, and the last night we were together, I gave my lover a wrapped box (he was wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, which will tell you something if you read other posts) and told him not to open it until I was gone. That box contained about two hundred corks from all those bottles of wine. Our time, measured out in Iberian nuggets.

    Wine-dark sea, indeed. Homer knew the double entendre in that one.

  11. That's more like it Susan - the kind of thing wine should be about, not arcane arguments about oxidation and cork taint. Cheers! With a loud pop of the cork for emphasis.