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Corks vs. Plastic Corks vs. Twist Off Tops

NATURAL CORK - The Myth
There has been a shift since the 90s away from traditional corks, and towards the use of twist offs and synthetic corks. As consumers we have accepted this change due to a misguided understanding that the cork tree is
going extinct. Our global transition towards building a greener lifestyle has seemingly encouraged this myth. In accepting that we need to make sacrifices to help build a sustainable future, we (well some of us) have learned to say goodbye to that nostalgic popping noise when a cork is removed from its wine bottle.

The Truth
Now before I convince you too much that giving up this age old tradition will make you a better person by protecting the environment, I think we need to get our facts straightened up. Cork is actually a renewable resource. The cork is harvested, as the bark of trees, which are not cut down. Pedro Regato, WWF Mediterranean Head of Forest unit announced that “Cork extraction is one of the most environmentally-friendly harvesting processes in the world - not a single tree is cut down to get the cork. This tradition can survive, as long as demand for cork stays high, if not, the cork forests will disappear - and with them, a unique cultural and natural heritage.” Cork production promotes biodiversity and is a leading example of a sustainable agro-forest system, whereby people and animals use their natural resources in a diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and in an environmentally preserving and promoting way. Once disposed of, corks are readily biodegradable.

The Real Origin of the Shift
Why then the shift towards plastic corks and twist-offs? Ever heard of a wine being “corked”? A small percentage of wine sold has gone bad due to a problematic cork. This is usually because the cork contains some mold from its native tree, or the faulty cork lets in to much air. A corked wine is usually due to a cork that is contaminated with TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole). Not to get to scientific, TCA can simply be described as causing the wine to smell and taste damp or musty. The other consumer based problem with natural corks are that they are sometimes difficult to remove, and may break off into the bottle.

Plastic or Synthetic Corks: The Natural Cork Impersonator
To preserve one of the traditions of wine drinking, the conventional cork removal, manufacturers over the past 20 years have promoted the use of plastic corks to negate any negative effects the natural cork may bring to the wine. These corks are resistant to cork taint, meaning the wine is far less likely to spoil. Due to the fact that that they don’t dry out, plastic corks are easier to take out the bottle and they won’t crumble into the wine. At the same time however, they may be harder to put back into the bottle.

Twist Off Tops
Twist off tops provide a cheap alternative to natural or plastic corks. Like plastic corks they are immune to any cork taint. Likewise, they provide the bottle with a tight seal once opened. Twist off tops are often heavily criticized however by removing the romance of the traditional cork, cheapening the process of wine drinking. Some condemn twist-offs, as well as plastic corks, since they don’t allow any air to pass into the bottle. This prevents any oxygen from reaching the wine, interfering with the natural aging process. The use of these two alternatives also jeopardize the health of ecosystems based around cork farming, limit its biodiversity, thus destroying a sustainable resource, and promoting a trend away from the green movement.

Luckily for the traditionalists and the environmentalists, there has more recently been a movement back to
natural cork. For all you wine drinking enthusiasts, fear not, as the romance of the wine drinking experience
will not be lost!

 
 
Contents
Appellation d’Origine Controlée
Wine Through The Times
Wine Trivia 7
Fast Wine Facts 3
Grape Harvest
Oh the Horror! Red Wine Stains.
Wine Trivia 6
Grape Growing Problems
Fast Wine Facts 2
Ice Wine
Fast Wine Facts
How Many Grapes
Wine Aromas
Kosher Wine
Wine Trivia 5
When To Send Wine Back
Sherry
Wine Trivia 4
Prohibition
Great French Wine Blight
Port Wines
Wine Trivia 3
Wine Trivia 2
Wine Trivia
Oak Barrels
Sweetness
Sparkling Wine and Champagne
Organic and Biodynamic Wine
Aging Wine
Wine Varietals
Wine Labels
New World Vs Old World Wines
How Terroir Effects Wine
Clarifying Wine with Egg Whites
Tips On Preserving Open Wine
Why Red Wine Makes Me...
The Biology of Tasting Wine
Choosing the Perfect Glassware
Corks vs Plastic Corks
Wine Laws and AVAs in the USA
Tasting Wine
Wine and Food Matching
Buying Wine
Storing and Serving Wine