Keep the Cork – for better wines


This is the overall position of The Alternative Palate (TAP) as cork will invariable bring out the best in a wine over many years of careful cellaring. Whilst alternative closures have their place, the ultimate wine will only come from a corked bottle (pardon the pun).

Dominique Tourneix, CEO of Diam Bouchage, puts it elegantly when he says that  “cork is more than just a shutter, the cork is the last oenological act of the winemaker. It must make it possible to preserve the good evolution of the wine in bottle throughout its guard by respecting the aromatic profile which one wished to give it.”

Wine in the bottle under cork needs to be considered in terms of mechanical performance, sensory neutrality and oxygen control. In short, the connection of cork and screw cap on flavour and ageing has become the topic of ongoing debate. Does a sound cork add a subtle flavour element of its own that enhances the subtlety and complexity of well-aged wine? I for one believe it does as of course the cork industry. My evidence is simple, for hundreds of years we have tasted well-aged wines under cork.

As with any product, there will be ‘lemons’ and this is only expected where man and product interact – we are not perfect and things can go wrong with bottling, cellar cleanliness, airborne bacteria, and dare I say it winemaker error -yes it does happen.

Contrary to almost universal belief, screw-cap wines are indeed susceptible to the sort of mouldy, off aromas typically associated with contaminated corks. The main source of cork taint in wine is a randomly occurring chemical called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or TCA

So does a sturdy screwcap ensure that the wine stays clean? What about reduction issues with screwcaps – the pro-metal closure advocates seem silent on this issue and indeed rarely if ever mention it. We take the view that screw caps create a condition that’s too anaerobic – sheltered from oxygen – to foster the natural development that comes with cellaring. Then there is screw cap damage (air enters resulting in spoilage) not to mention is that plastic that lines the metal cap? Wine and plastic – really!

We take the view that natural cork allow just the right amount of air to penetrate the cork of a cellared bottle lying on its side at a constant temperature which ensures that the wine evolves naturally.

Whatever your view I’d love to know what you think! Drop us a line and let us know whether you’re seeing less natural cork, and how you feel about that. We’ll welcome your opinions, whatever they are.

Please click on the links below to read about why cork is still the number one preferred closure.

  1. Can a screw-cap wine be “corked”? Corkiness isn’t just cork taint.
  2. Can a screw-cap wine be ‘corked’?
  3. Wine bottle caps increasingly damaged, expert Alison Eisermann-Ctercteko says, with bad results for taste
  4. Cork vs. Screwcap: Why Domaine Laroche Went Back to Cork
  5. Amorim has achieved a major technological breakthrough to become the world’s first cork producer to deliver natural cork stoppers to winemakers in six countries with a non-detectable TCA guarantee*, using cutting-edge technology that has not only been successfully trialed, but which is also being independently validated on performance.
  6. Cork Advocate and Supplier
  7. Natural Cork vs Alternative Closure Wars: Race to the [Wine Bottle] Top