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Cork or Screwcap, But For The Love of God, Do Not Use The Plastic Plug!!

Editor’s Note: In our recent effort to bring people from every wine culture together, the EWBC network has started a monthly debate on topics that effect us all. This month, the topic is alternative closures. We have asked wine bloggers from across the world to join in and publish their views on alternative closures between September 22nd through the 26th. Everyone is welcome to join in and share your thoughts. We only ask that you please post your article in the comment section of this EWBC post. Hopefully, we will gain enough participation to eventually show the power of social media!

Guess what time it is? It’s the biannual ritual of talking about closures again. This is the time of the year when we state our preference for one over another – bitching and moaning about TCA taint, reduction or sticky plastic corks. Why do we do this? Well, it’s an easy topic and usually gets people riled up, while at the same time, making us feel that we are finally standing up for something.

Here at Catavino, our thinking has evolved from an off and on hate relationship with cork to more of a friend with fringe benefits. Currently, we’re on good standing, but aren’t quite ready to exchange house keys and buy matching travel luggage. We love the idea of cork, and its sustainable properties, but we still love our screwcaps for those fresh whites and young reds. Much to our chagrin, however, we’re finding more and more plastic corks here in Spain, and only one or two screwcap wines.

So let us state for the record that WE HATE plastic corks, and if there are bodegas out there listening, DUMP THE PLASTIC and go with the SCREWCAP!! In the words of an American footwear philosopher, Just do it! It makes sense. Plus, those stupid plastic corks are just downright annoying. They’re hard to pull out, and regardless of how much you struggle and twist and tug, with all your might, when it does finally come out, you either hit yourself in the face or spill wine all over the new carpet. Not to mention the fact that you can’t make a trivet from a plastic cork. And, more importantly, the last thing this planet needs is more plastic. We will start recommending against wines that use plastic corks, simply because it’s such a dumb idea!

On the other side of the coin, cork haters, get a life. Cork taint problems are dropping. It’s a fact that almost any retailer,  or wine critic, can tell you. In the 80′s and 90′s, cork taint was a bigger epidemic; but today, while still an issue, it is getting better. And although we absolutely hate cork taint, we do like cork. And if a big company like Amorim can virtually eliminate taint, then it’s only a matter of time before that technology trickles down to smaller producers. That said, there will always be bad bottles. Wine is a produce item. Buy a dozen apples, and a few will have some soft spots. Buy a dozen wines, and you will inevitably have variation.

Personally, I like the idea that wine has variation. But if retailers were smart, allowing you to return or exchange a wine, the problem wouldn’t be such a big deal. Bad bottle? Stick the cork back in and return it. Can’t do that with an apple, now can you? That said, I have been known to cry out in pain and anguish after opening a tainted bottle from my cellar, which has been aging for over 20 years. In this situation, you will see me curse and cry out to the Cork Gods. But for long term aging, I have yet to see a more effective alternative to cork. If you have the research for an alternative, put it in my comments section. We are all ears!  (Flickr photo by emdot)

Don’t take our rant as a free pass for the cork industry! You all need to get your act together, working as a team to make sure that every producer has access to similar technologies and science. Cork tainted bottles are never blamed on the cork producer, but rather on cork as a whole. So if there is even one producer producing bad corks, you all get the raw end of the deal. Your competitive advantage of having the most “taint free corks” means shit when a competitor releases a batch of tainted ones. You lose, they lose, and your new fancy TCA eliminator machine is worthless.

Before I go, I want to list a few things that I believe to be fact and that are worthy of consideration:

  • Screw caps produce a ton of pollution in their production process
  • Corks will never be 100% TCA free, but can get pretty close
  • Plastic cork is STUPID – Seriously, this is not even worth debating – GIVE IT UP!
  • Cork boards are great for organization, and Trivets are fun to make for cheap x-mas gifts! :)
  • Screw caps are just fine for young wines; and if they’re good enough for my 50$ vodka, they’re good enough for my $5 Tempranillo
  • Corkscrews are fun to collect and even more fun to use. I seriously love opening bottles with a nice waiters corkscrew or my Languoile
  • Cork forests are incredible – seriously worth visiting! If you have never been to Portugal, make a date, and then go see the cork forest. There is something absolutely magical about them.
  • Cork flooring is a great way to use cork
  • Screwcaps to date are pretty boring. Why not do something fun with them? Pictures on the inside? Make them collectibles

There is my rant. Comments are open, so tell me that I’m wrong! Remember, there are six more months until our next rant. Let’s see where we’re at then! :)

Cheers,

Ryan Opaz

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  • http://bsmp.com.br Bernardo

    Hi Ryan,do you have any further info on production of screw caps and its consequences?? I'd appreciate that. Thank you very much,Bernardo

  • http://www.prgrisley.com allaboutalavesa

    Funny, Gary V dedicated his show to a certain type of closure yesterday. Check it out!http://tv.winelibrary.com/2008/09/22/put-a-zork

  • DJH

    I was just going to comment and say GV did that show yesterday that offers an alternative and I was beat to the punch. yes it's called a Zork and they can be found at http://www.zorkusa.com. I don't see what the big deal is with synthetic corks – I'm all for them. Does it close the bottle of wine? Yes. You do, however, have a point with the undesireable use of plastic.

  • 2Kathy

    Ryan, traveling through a cork forest truly is an Avalon experience (I’ve never had an Amorim tour). I can’t speak for other wine moms, but every kid in Napa Valley recycles corks into school art projects thereby giving them a tuck-in-the-drawer life of several years.Those plastic corks are hard to get out of the bottle (and when they aren’t, does that mean the wine may be oxidized?) Impossible to get back in the bottle. Art project rating: unknown but has potential. I vaguely recall seeing Zork—at Vinexpo? One wine fraud factor: it is “tamper evident” though I doubt Moueix, or the Rothschilds will adopt it soon. US trademark filed in 2003; US patent 2005. Got a $1.25 million (AUS) grant from the Australian govt. for “proof of concept for a patent pending closure for sparkling wines,” November 07. Art project rating: unknown.I like the stylish glass stoppers; Austrians (note I do not mean Australians) use them, though it seems less so recently. (Alcoa trademark: Vino-Lok introduced in 2004; arrived in the US in 2006 as Vino-Seal; Alcoa's packaging group sold to NZ’s Rank Group in March 08). Apparently the glass cost about equals a high quality oak-tree cork (initially Alcoa paid for bottling line retrofit). Art project rating: good question for Martha Stewart.Finally, as winter is moving our way, corks do make better fire starters than glass, aluminum, or plastic.

  • http://www.ourwinestory.com Dylan

    What do you mean by traveling through the cork forest? And, no I'm not getting ephemeral with the world “traveling.” I'm just asking Is it a matter of driving through one, or are there actual trails and guided tours one can explore?

  • http://lagar.worpress.com Milton

    For more information on cork, visit “Save Miguel”. It's a really nice site and important cause.

  • ryanopaz

    Any product who's main website has a video that makes the biggest benefit of their product is the “popping” sound like a real cork, is seriously in trouble. NO MORE PLASTIC, PLEASE. Why do we need the Zork? No clue!As to the glass stoppers, fine, I've seen them, they are nice if not a bit difficult to open, but they work and you can recycle them. No issue.As for plasitc corks, too many have gotten stuck so tight I fight with them. I knew customers who wouldn't buy them anymore after an experience struggling with getting them out. Not to mention you can never get them back in to recork a half full bottle.

  • 2Kathy

    Dylan, I don't know about tours but I'm sure there are some public trails. Search Catavino, Ryan may have something. Or contact the Portuguese trade office in New York (or wherever you are), their tourism and wine people are very helpful. Or just drive from Lisbon to the Alentejo (and on to Spain). Lots of cork oak plantations and many wineries, especially the old ones, have them. Then again, some are just a small group shading somebody's house (its hot there in the summer). They have such a beautiful polished red oak skin color when the bark is stripped. And you'll see trucks that sometimes look as old as the trees moving along with the bark strips. Like what the old bailed hay trucks looked like when full. And, of course, many are serious plantation operations.

  • gabriellaopaz

    Dylan, great question! Most of the tours we've received have either been on our own accord or though a cork institute. That said, Iberia is not the only place where you can see cork oak forests. Italy, France, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria are also home of the cork oak, albeit producing considerably less than Spain and Portugal. As Kathy mentioned above, if you are interested in seeing a cork forest, I would either contact the local information center or a nearby cork institute for more information. Or, you could also contact World Wildlife Federation, as they are working to preserve the cork oak forests, and would most likely have an ample amount of information on the subject.

  • http://www.wineandfriends.blogspot.com Hugo PM

    Wine is unique! Cork of course!…

  • http://www.ourwinestory.com Dylan

    Thanks for the feedback, Kathy and Gabriella. Much appreciated!

  • Andrea

    I like Cork and I like screwcaps for the same reasons; surprisingly the wines I've had with plastic cork were not hard to open at all and we're quite pretty in their marbled coloring, maybe it happened to be that they were all from a high quality Italian producer, who knows. But what I HATE more than anything else actually is the cheap, formed corks- little bits of cork all pressed together then squeezed into inexpensive bottles of wine that still end up being pulled out in little bits! And most fall into the wine or the cork breaks in half and then it's a real struggle to get the rest out at all and just makes for a real frustrating mess! This is the time when screwcaps would be sooo much better for these inexpensive wines as this cheap cork pretty much ruins a simple but decent everyday wine. Can anyone relate to this? Let me know