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October 21, 2020

Below you can read a quick anecdote outlining a reaction we commonly have to address regarding our decision to use a screw cap to close our wine instead of a traditional cork. Who knew there would be such a over how wineries chose to close their wine?Also, the second half of this blog is dedicated to listing and describing the different types of closures used on wine and why they would be used.

Having used both, screw caps and corks over thelast +/-15 years of winemaking we have learned that sometimes differentjobs require different tools (there are several different corks let alone different closures). Unfortunately, in wine, sometimes people do not always trust the decision of a winemaker or project manager, like they would a carpenter, to make the right choice.  For example, read the message below. We received this email from a loyal customer of a brand we used to produce under a cork.

His message:

“Ordered a case of the Pinot Noir and was disappointed in the bottles being twist off caps. I would expect this from cheaper wines. Only reason I ordered was because I loved your Pinot from Romililly[Our first brand that evolved into Lucky Rock Wine Co.]. How long is this wine good for without a cork?”

Our response:

“We are sorry to hear of your disappointment. Screw caps, in general, if stored properly, will last roughly the same amount of time as a "typical cork." Just like any wine, that varies from wine to wine. Because it is a medium bodied Pinot Noir, we would recommend drinking it in the first 2-4 years, but that is just an educated guess. Even with cork closures, I would recommend drinking a bottle every year or so to see how it is aging.

This wine was developed by the two of us to ensure people have access to great wine at a fair price. The decision to employ a screw cap closure was meant to encourage people to drink casually and easily (no corkscrew needed)

We hope that helps you enjoy this wine to its fullest extent. Holler with any further questions or comments.”

Basically, we chose screw caps to give easy access to the drinker and knowingly bucked the stereotype that great wine only comes in a cork finished bottle. Perhaps this was more of an uphill battle than originally thought. 

Ready to try some damn good Pinot Noir for just $22? Click here to check out our wine.

wine corks

Kinds of Corks and Closures:

Natural Corks (the norm) 

Aging: ~10-25 years of aging, depending on quality of cork-

Cork can be great, but just like any natural product, there is variation from cork to cork. Some trees grow a denser cork, or with more holes. Some are better, some suck. Some leak, some are too tight. Some break, some don’t. AND- cork wood does have some flavor that will leech into the wine. This fact will affect each bottle a little differently. Variation

Synthetic Corks (plastic)

Aging: ~2-5 years, but getting better all the time-

Synthetic corks used to be horrible and only cheap wines used them, due to low cost. They would be put into wines of low quality and if not consumed in the first couple of years, the oxygen that they would allow in the bottle was too great- this would strip the fruit (oxidize the wine) and make the wine suck pretty quickly. That said, synthetic corks have come a long way and have gotten much better for the average wine. There are some interesting versions in this this arm of “cork”. See pictures.

Composite Corks (Glue and Cork Dust) aka Technical Corks 

Aging: ~3-5 years traditionally, but on notable brand offers ‘5, 10, and 30 year’ tier levels-

These closures have come a long way in quality. Now you will see Diam brand corks in high-end wines. They are not cheap for the producer, and that is reflected in the bottle price, but they have a guarantee to be consistent from cork to cork, bottle to bottle. Also, they promise not to “cork” your wine. “Corked” wine is caused by a chemical, created by a mold, that can live in natural cork. This chemical, TCA, makes your wine taste moldy or musty, like what you would smell if you have a wooden deck next to a hot tub- same chemical- Trichloroanisole. The downside? The cork fragments are held together with a food-grade glue, and sometimes, the equivalent of Styrofoam to help make it spongy, like a normal cork. There are high-end versions all the way down to very shitty versions in this family of corks. These types of closures are also used to finish off sparkling wines like Champagne.

Glass Stoppers

Aging: Not sure on this one. A glass stopper is only as good as the material used in the gasket. My guess is ~5-10 years.

While these little things are cool looking, they can have a high failure rate. They are only as good as they O-ring that helps the glass seal the bottle. This gasket can fail and allow too much oxygen in and must be held on by a capsule (the metal or plastic skirt over the neck of the bottle). When they don’t fail, they act very much like a screw cap closure- allowing less oxygen in. This keeps the wine fresh longer, but can lead to the wine reducing (smelling like Onion, sewage, etc.) Also… on a personal note, I have chipped my tooth trying to remove this closure with my face. I recommend not using your teeth to pop a glass stopper off the bottle.

Screw Caps

Aging: ~5-10 years, but I would drink in the first 5 years, depending on the materials used in the sealing disc.

This choice of closure is very convenient, but also requires a good amount of vigilance by the winemaker and bottling team. Like the glass stopper, it can lead to an “off” aroma and/or muted flavor. They rarely fail, much less than a cork, due to their consistency in being  manufactured materials. There is a man-made disk at the top of the closure that creates the seal. Different materials used in this seal will allow different amounts of oxygen into the wine- this needs to be chosen carefully. If you have a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon, you may want to use a more porous material to let more “aging” happen. If you have a fresh white wine, you may want to use something that keep oxygen out- this will help maintain freshness, but increases the chances of the wine getting a “stank” on it.

Other Closures:

Aging: Various

Crown tops (you've seen these on beer bottles)

These are being seen more often, but are still pretty scarce- Easy to open!

Zorks

A strange looking synthetic cork that is made of a plastic stopper that is unwound and pealed off- Easy open! This would age around the same as a synthetic cork.

All of these closures have their pluses and minuses. If you try several different wines with the same close over time, you may start to see the differences- some better and some not so good. Some of the issues will be so apparent that you will wish a different option was used. Sometimes you may think it was the wine’s fault, but it is the closure that was used and is F-ing with what could have been a great wine. Complicated, but interesting. Change is good…sometimes.

More reading on the subject:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/01/02/259128689/cork-versus-screw-cap-dont-judge-a-wine-by-how-its-sealed

https://vincarta.com/blog/wines-screw-caps-age-wine-corks/

https://www.kj.com/blog/different-types-wine-bottle-closures

No time to read? Watch our YouTube episode on the subject:

Check out our Lucky Rock Wine Swag.

 


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