Using Corks Myths and Realities for Winemakers
A horse often beaten to death on forums is usually fraught with misinformation and myths is the subject of corks. There are certainly many opinions that are valid as well on the subject of using corks so in the interest of Amateur Winemaking I thought it might be a good idea to start this blog.
Let’s start with a little story from the past. At the beginning of my wine making many years ago a local winery was selling Chardonnay for ten dollars a case. That is not a typo. The winery used natural corks but there was a problem. The corks had either started to disintegrate or they were not washed properly and had cork dust on them. Not knowing for sure exactly the problem the results were very obvious all kinds of things were floating in perfectly clear and polished Chardonnay. The lesson? Wash Corks before using them.
And so that is what we did for years. We dipped them in water and dried them with a towel before we would use them. I was never really comfortable with this as I felt the water did get in the pores of the corks and that could be a source of bacterial growth. Except for an occasional TCA Corked bottle the bacteria worry never materialized. While this was all going on others would insist that all corks should bathed in a K Meta Solution while others claimed the K Meta would contribute to the deteriorating of the cork and reduce its effective service life.
Well a few things have changed. We buy sealed bags of corks that are fresh from the manufacturer. With arrangements with Frank Musto and M&M Grape Company they arrange for us to buy them in 500 count bags not the usual 1000 count. Amorin Corks lets us return opened bags for re gassing and restoring humidity level up to I year after purchase. We don’t wash them anymore and we have moved up from the value grade to extra grade which for the price difference are really excellent. The Extra grade are 3 from the top grade of Flor.
Amateurs buying small amounts face other problems as LHBS re pack corks in plastic bags with no controls or even a date when packed. This leaves the Winemaker with the possibility of receiving dried out corks that will crack and break and provide a poor seal.
While I prefer natural corks there are a myriad of other choices whether they are other cork type products or synthetic ones. My only real experience is with two types. On one occasion I tried the double topper type. It is an agglomerated cork ( pieces of cork held together by glue ) with a disc of natural cork on each end. I used them once , I found the discs separating when I opened some of the bottles. The other cork I have used for white wines which were going to be opened within a year or two is the newest type agglomerated cork where the pieces of cork are extremely small in size. I have had no problem with them at all and the manufacturer demonstrated to me at the Winery Show last year these corks which were placed in bottles 5 years ago with no particles floating in the solution. Not for my Beckstoffer but not a bad choice for the guys who drink early. That is if you can live with the idea the glue is really food grade LOL.
I know there is much more people can add to this blog so for now I will leave it there and see what others have to contribute..