Choosing A Wine Cork

You just spent a few weeks fermenting your wine, and several more months on top of that aging the wine to perfection. When it comes time to bottle, choosing the right wine cork for your needs is the last step before adding the wine to your cellar. Let's look at what types of corked there are, and which suits your wine the best.

The main factor that should influence your selection of cork is time. How long will you need to store your wine for? Oxygen is the enemy and corks do not provide a perfect, oxygen free seal however, certain corks do provide a better seal than others.

Wine Cork Materials

Synthetic Cork:

Synthetic cork Synthetic cork

The cheapest option is to go for a synthetic cork, these are made for plastic compounds. While synthetic corks remove any risk of cork taint (trichloroanisole or TCA) they do allow more oxygen into the bottle, which can lead to oxidation when stored for long periods. They also lack elasticity which can cause leaking. These are best used for wines that you intend on opening within 6-12 months of bottling at the most.

Agglomerated cork:

agglomerated-cork-stopper-F agglomerated cork

These corks are made from compressed cork granules with synthetic binding agents. These are roughly 50% cork granules and 50% synthetic agents. These corks are cheaper than natural cork, however they are not as strong as natural cork and the seal they provide should only be used for wine stored in the short to medium term. If left in the bottle for too long they can disintegrate into the bottle during extraction and there’s nothing worse than having to strain your wine!

Natural Disk Top Cork (NDT):

wine cork NDT Natural disc top cork

These corks are made up of roughly 10% natural cork, 40% cork granules and 50% synthetic binding. These corks have 2, all natural cork disks glued to the top and bottom of an agglomerated cork. This provides a better seal and elasticity than synthetic and agglomerated cork which means it can be used for medium to long term storage. The drawback of these is that the glue used to adhere the disks can fail and the disks come apart from the cork.

Colmated Cork (natural cork):

natural wine cork natural cork

The colmated cork is 90% natural cork and 10 % natural glue mixed with cork granules. These corks are strong, high quality corks that provide a good seal and will not fall apart when stored for long periods. The process of using the natural glue and cork granules helps to fill in some of the cork’s pores which helps keep the cork strong. This cork provides the best seal due to its elasticity, once fitted into the bottle it will try its hardest to regain its original shape thus creating less chance to allow high volumes of oxygen to get into the bottle.


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Things to be aware of

Bottle Storage: Given that cork is a natural product its failure rates are higher than screw caps. Once fitted with a cork your bottles should be stored on their side or upside down. This will keep the cork from drying out and losing its seal.

wine cork - bottled wine Once bottled, make sure to store corked wine bottled on their side.

Cork Taint: When buying a batch of cork, testing should be performed for cork taint. This can be done by selecting a cork at random and placing into 100mls of wine for 24hours. After this time you should be able to detect whether there are any TCA aromas, characterized by a moldy scent, sometimes described as wet newspaper or wet dog. If you can detect these characters dispose of the entire batch of cork, so not to taint the wine you intend on bottling.

If you are making whites that are intended to be aromatic, then a wine cork may be best avoided as oxygen dulls aromatics. Try using a screw cap instead. If you were to ask an Australian commercial winery their opinion on sealing wine under cork most will champion screw caps. They are a more sustainable product that creates a better seal against oxidation while maintaining aromatics.

Screw caps are not 100% fail proof however and are delicate, if bumped or dented they can lose their seal and effect the wine.

For wines to be consumed within two years, we recommend neutrocork 38 x 22mm. If you plan on aging the wine for a longer period of time (over two years), the Aquamark cork is what you're looking for. Once nicely corked, sealing the top off with a PVC heat seal cap for a beautiful and professional look. If you're new to wine-making, and haven't gotten all the supplies you need. Zorks are a sealing option that doesn't require a corker.

About the Author

Jack has 12 years worth of experience in the wine industry and is an avid home brewer.

written by Jack Davis

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