Natural, synthetic or screw cap? The cork revolution

When a bottle is placed on a table, the ritual of serving the wine begins. While the uncorking releases it from its container and allows us to taste it, rarely do we look at the type of material used to close the bottle. Let’s talk about cork, the material that seals most of the wine bottles produced in the world. However, when closing a bottle, new materials are sometimes as versatile as they are unknown. Undoubtedly, there are significant differences between them, so today we are going to explain their characteristics and common applications.

Generally, there are three types of stoppers: cork, synthetic and natural. Cuatro Rayas uses all of them in their bottling, but always chooses the one that best fits the needs of each wine: it all depends on how we want it to evolve once bottled. Until not long ago, cork was the only option to stop a bottle. There are four types: natural (extracted from a single piece of cork oak); the so-called ‘colmated’ stopper (also extracted from a piece of cork, but lower quality); the agglomerated cork (manufactured with cork granules or chips); and ‘technical’ stoppers (with an agglomerate body, but natural disks). What are their advantages? Cork is a light, elastic, porous and resilient product. It also facilitates the conservation and evolution of a wine and allows a small amount of oxygen to pass through its pores. Among the disadvantages are the feared TCA, i.e., tainted cork aromas, which sometimes occur in the wine.

Synthetic stoppers do not come from the cork oak bark. They are made from ‘thermoplastic elastomers’, i.e., plastic materials with elastic properties. Synthetic stoppers are either made by extrusion or injection (two terms which only determine how they are manufactured) and figuring among their advantages is that do not give any TCA problems, offer a wide range of colors and allow the uncorking ritual to continue. Their drawbacks are reflected in the preservation of wine, since they allow hardly any oxygen through, preventing that the wines evolve in the bottle.

There is a third option: the screw cap. It is made with aluminum coated with different materials. Technically the perfect closure. In addition, it is very handy. However, it does not allow any oxygen through and, of course, no uncorking takes place as it is opened by turning the cap on the bottle mouth.

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