“The stopper is the way between wine and the universe” – (J. Gravner)
Leaving aside the romantic side of this sentence, we can understand the importance of the cork, a small cylinder made of different materials. There are different types of stoppers: cork tops, threaded stoppers, the flip-top or the synthetic caps.
The most used material is cork that comes form the bark of Quercus Suber, known as the Cork Oak. This can vary its quality based on its composition, and there can be:
- Single piece of caps made of pressed cork;
- Made of a 2 pressed parts and two whole rounds;
- Mushroom stopper (typical of Spumante wines), a cylinder deformed by the pressure inside the bottle.
How does the passage from tree to stopper take place?
The bark, after being treated, is cut and then shaped to create the well-known cylinder, that have to fit perfectly with the glass once placed in the neck of the bottle.
The bottle cap plays an important role because it allows the air to flow (in small quantity, of course) inside the bottle. The wine is live, it evolves, grows and, like the people it needs to breath. The cork stopper is used for this aim, without air, the wine will die!
The cork is a material that needs lots of time to regenerate, thus it is not an unlimited raw material.
The cork stopper, above all the high quality one, has an important cost.
This kind of stopper can create the dreaded “cork taint” that can be given by: a mould the Armillaria mellea that attack the sugar, by a chemical mix (Trichloroanisole) given by the interaction with a component of the sugar and the chlorine used to whiten it.
To avoid all this problems, there has been created different types of stoppers with synthetic materials or screw bottle caps that cost less and they do not alter the characteristic of the wine (neither positively or negatively).
To conclude, despite the problems that a cork stopper can bring, there are several benefits. To be honest, opening a bottle with trepidation, smell the cap and discover that there aren’t flaws… is priceless!