Corks, and screw tops, and plastic corks, oh my! There are so many ways to seal a wine bottle, but what’s the reason behind corking it? You’ve probably heard of cork taint—when a wine goes bad because a cork is contaminated with TCA. Modern production has made cork taint much rarer. Even so, why do wineries still use corks to seal wine?
Good Alternatives Are Out There!
You’ve probably seen the alternatives: plastic corks and screw-tops. Both of these work very well in eliminating cork taint, and many wineries, especially in Australia and New Zealand, use them exclusively. While some of the reason for cork use is a tradition (and the stigma of alternatives), corks actually serve a real purpose and can improve the flavor of your wine!
Corks Help Wine Age
So we’ve mentioned that oxygen is what makes your open wine spoil. Yet slowly letting in small amounts of oxygen over time will actually help your wine age gracefully! The oxygen helps develop complexity beyond fruit flavors and softens a vino’s tannins.
Corks allow a very small amount of air (aka juuuust the right amount) to reach your vino. For most wines that we drink right away (many reds and almost all whites), the closure doesn’t really matter. But for a wine that we plan to age, a cork seal makes a lot of sense.
While there’s nothing like the feeling of uncorking your favorite bottle, know that your vino won’t taste too different if sealed off differently. Cheers!