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Ask The Advisor

Have a wine related question? "Ask the Advisor" is our feature where you can have your burning wine questions answered.  We plan to tackle a broad range of subjects from food and wine pairing to the pros and cons of wild yeast fermentation. No question is too simple (we like those because they are easier to answer) and if you have a tough one we can't answer it we will either punt, call in for industry reinforcements or go back to Fresno State.

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Dear Mr. Advisor,
I see all these strange things stuck in wine bottles these days tht should be corks but are something else entirely. I pulled one out the other day and it was bright bue-can you imagine! Are these new things any good and why don't winemakers just stick with the original cork?
All corked up in Sacramento, California
Advisor Answer   
GrapeRadio Audio Program "All About Cork"

Dear All corked up,                                                      

Put a cork in it I say and concentrate on the good stuff under the cap. Winemakers have been struggling for centuries to keep out unwanted oxygen from their hooch. Oily cloth used to be favorite as well as animal hides. Today winemakers have four choices and all have their advantages and disadvantages.
The most common closure is of course the Natural Cork closure that roughly 80% of wineries in North America use. They vary in size (some are as long as my thumb!) and quality but get the job done. They are expensive ($.75 to $.90 each) but many consumers equate quality wine only with natural cork.
Sometimes you may see a cork that looks like its made up of tiny little pieces of cork mashed together. Well that is what is known as a Technical Cork or a Composite Cork which can be found in bottles from most parts of the world though I see them less than in the past. It generally is perceived as a second best option as it looks and functions almost like a natural cork.
Synthetic closures are what we are seeing more of as they are becoming more accepted—even in those bright colors. They are usually targeted for use with wines that are made and consumed within a 12 to 18 month time frame.  I don’t mind these rubbery little plugs but at times they can be more difficult to remove (and they don’t look as good in those little cork trivets you see in the winery gift shops).
The Screw Cap of course brings back fond memories of the generic wines of my youth. Well it’s full circle on these easy to open (no removal equipment necessary) closures as they are coming back into vogue as we get used to the idea seeing these on $20 bottles of wine from reputable winemakers. In the U.K. and in Australia screw caps are well accepted and widely used for all types of wines.
The bottom line on closures is they all have a reason for being. Wines needing ageing need a natural cork to keep the wine from premature aging. Technical corks are cheaper and can work almost as well. Synthetic plugs work just fine and are cheap. Screw caps are retro and frankly get the job done just fine--and a lot better than an old sock.
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