My my my!  How times have changed in the realm of stoppering a liquid-carrying vessel; chiefly, the wine bottle.

I’ve scoured the ‘net trying to find some unanimous agreement on the history of using cork to stopper amphorae, casks, jugs and the like, but none seem to agree.  It wasn’t until the mid 1800s that the vino bottle was standardized to 750ml.  This then made the production of cork stoppers easier; leading to both mass production of acceptable wine bottle corks and sustainability of the resource as a whole. Almost 50% of all cork production is in Portugal and Spain.

Nowadays, we have a number of ways to seal a bottle: cork, rubber stopper, and screwcap; to name just a few. But which is better?!

Cork is considered traditional with its relationship to the wine bottle. It comes in varying styles, qualities and compositions, but for the most part, it does the trick. Keeping a cork healthy is essential for the longevity of wine being held back. If improperly cellared or the bottle kept upright, the natural wooden cork will dry out, contract and let the wine spoil.  On the other hand, should the cork be kept too moist, it will mold and taint the bottle’s contents.

If a winery decides that its best-enjoyed-young wines are too fast-moving to really NEED a cork stopper, a synthetic media can be used.  Sometimes its a solid rubber-like plug that’s used or its a slug of dense foam with a layer of material around it. Either way, it does the trick and is not susceptible to the frailties is cork.

The oft-maligned screw-cap is actually one of the better methods of sealing a wine bottle. In my opinion, it’s a tamper-evident and sterile way of protecting the contents of the bottle in an air-tight environment and doesn’t require a corkscrew to open. The plastic seal inside the cap won’t shrink, mold or rot and will never impart any undesirable flavors to a wine.  Its stigma of cheapness is slowly being overridden by wineries who are using screw-caps to preserve their most special of reserve wines.  In Canada, the prized estates of the more well-known wineries are exclusively using screw-cap on their small-batch single-vineyard reserves.

So don’t judge a vino by its stopper.  Which is better? It be not for this vinoboy to dictate.  Select your vino based on what you’re looking for in the wine: varietal, style, price-point, etc – not on how the bottle is sealed.



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