Natural Cork Closures for Wine

Natural Cork Closures for Wine

Natural cork wine have been used to seal and protect wine for the past three hundred years or so. Prior to that more crude methods were employed. Today we are seeing a thriving synthetic closure market crop up and the debate between whether to use natural or synthetic closures is thriving. This article is the first in a serries that will cover each of the different closure types available and what their benefits and drawbacks are. Where Does Cork Come From? Cork closures are made from the bark of the Cork Oak tree. This particular tree is native to Southwest Europe and Northwest Africa. As you can see from the cross section of a cork oak tree the bark grows very thick. Once it has reached an optimum thickness the bark is harvested by stripping it from the tree in large sheets. These sheets are processed and solid corks are drilled from it. The remaining cork is then shredded into small particles and used to create more cork closures or it will go into other cork products such as corkboards for displaying all those reminders we never look at. Unlike other trees the cork oak does not suffer from the removal of its bark. It simply regrows and can be harvested again and again as it reaches the proper thickness. On average it takes between nine and twelve years for the tree to regenerate its bark. The bark is usually harvested from cork oaks that are at least 25 years old. These trees can live to be between 150 to 250 years old even when the bark is harvested on a regular basis. So each tree goes through about twelve harvests in its lifetime. The Benefits of Natural Cork Closures Natural cork closures have been used for so long because there are many benefits to doing so. Previous methods for sealing wine bottles included soaking rags in oil and stuffing them into the neck of the bottle, while other cultures would pour a layer of olive oil over the free surface of the wine. The floating oil would prevent oxidation and microbial spoilage so long as the wine was not infected prior to pouring the oil. One of the main benefits of cork closures is that they are a product of nature. Many synthetic closures are made from petroleum based plastics that, some critics claim, leave petrol flavors behind. By in large natural corks do not impart any noticeable flavor on the wine. Due to the long history of using cork closures we have a much better understanding of how they hold up over time and how well the wine they protect develops. No one knows how well a synthetic closure and the wine it protects will fair after fifty years in the cellar because they just haven’t been around that long. The Drawbacks of Natural Cork Closures There are a few downsides to using cork closures. Because they are derived from a tree they, like any other plant based material, can dry out over time. So care must be taken when purchasing, inserting, and storing wine enclosed with...

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