Cork and its Role in Conserving Wine

Wine tends to improve with the passage of time, but only if it’s kept in adequate conditions. For this, cork has a fundamental role to play. In order for wine to age, it needs oxygen, and only corks can give it to them. At the same time, they help keep bacteria and mold out of the bottle.

The Importance of Cork 

Even though they are hermetically sealed, cork allows oxygen to enter the bottle thanks to its porosity and impermeability. It’s necessary to maintain the cork with a certain level of humidity to keep it in optimal condition. That’s why storing wine bottles on their side is important, so the wine is permanently in contact with the cork.

Cork has the ability to adapt itself to strong external climactic conditions. Its elasticity makes it indispensable in two extremely important functions. One is that it allows for the micro-oxygenation of the wine (which helps along the evolution of the wine in a slow, progressive way), and the other is to protect the bottle from an excess of moisture that comes from the outside.

Types of Corks

There are three types of corks produced from which to choose: natural cork, agglomerated cork, and synthetic cork. Within these categories, there are multiple alternatives available in the market.

Natural Cork

Cork itself is a natural material that comes from the bark of the Quercus suber tree, also known as the Mediterranean cork oak, and it’s this raw material that creates all of the finished cork products. The stoppers made from natural cork can be from one piece or the combination of two or more pieces glued together. Those made from one piece are ideal for aging wine for prolonged periods of time.

While in contact with the wine during aging, the cork takes on the color and smell of whatever is in the bottle, giving information about its state. That’s why the cork is given to the consumer when the bottle is first opened.

Agglomerated or Technical Cork

This is a material made from a cork base. They’re made with chunks of natural, synthetic, or powdered cork, stuck together with substances that may be in contact with the contents of the bottle.

Synthetic Cork

Can be made from different materials, generally plastics. This cork has a few advantages, such as providing a hermetic seal, antibacterial properties, and eradication of the risk of TCA. Additionally, this kind of cork does not require humidity to be preserved, so bottles can be stored vertically. However, it does not give us any information about the state of the wine (color or aroma).

Sparkling Wine Corks

All of the previously mentioned corks are used for still wines. Sparkling wines require a special closure, made with high-quality compressed cork and an aerodynamic design that make them more resistant than normal corks.