The Different Corks used to Bottle Wine
However, because evidence suggests that this material may be prone to TCA taint, various alternatives have been proposed and implemented. Is natural cork being overused simply because of tradition? Is an unacceptable amount of wine and money being wasted due to cork taint? Are the new materials any better, or are they actually worse? These are the major questions that have framed the cork debate.
The most common form of cork taint is caused by a chemical called TCA. TCA taint normally occurs due to a faulty natural cork, though it can be introduced during the winemaking process as well. Some estimate that TCA taint costs wine producers and consumers over $1 billion a year, but these figures are disputed.
Because cork is a natural material, each one is unique. This can lead to inconsistency, and some may deteriorate over time. But proponents argue that the “pop” made by natural cork is part of the allure of wine enjoyment, and that removing this step is a mistake.
One alternative that is widely used is synthetic cork. This material will not dry out like natural cork, and reduces the risk of oxidation and TCA taint. At the same time, because it does not oxidize the wine at all, it restricts the ability to age.
Screw caps are a good alternative to natural cork for wines that will be consumed soon after they are produced. They are widely used for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and are spreading to other wine regions that produce delicate wines not meant to age. Screw caps are also useful for preserving a partially consumed bottle.
In response the shortcomings of natural and synthetics corks as well as screw caps, some producers are using hybrid corks. They are made of both natural and synthetic materials. The goal is to reduce TCA taint, while also imparting some of the benefits of natural cork.
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