Tag Archive for: wine closures

Isn’t it amazing how a bottle closure can attract so much intrigue!  It’s just a bottle closure, after all.  And yet I bump into people regularly who are fascinated by the simple cork and unconvinced by an ugly screwcap.  Truth is that the cork has dutifully served our wine industry for literally centuries – the Greeks in the 5th Century BC used cork as a jug closure.

Cork has a wonderful, natural sponginess and gives great adhesion against the side of a glass bottle.  It is completely renewable because the trees from which it is taken do not die and it’s completely bio-degradable.  cork v screw copyBut cork’s singular most important appeal (or downfall – depending on which way you look at it), is that it is porous and therefore allows micro amounts of air to permeate very slowly into the wine, thus allowing the wine to age very slowly and evenly.   Needless to say, wines destined for very long maturation generally favour this form of closure.

Paradoxically, this last point is also responsible for cork being less popular amongst winemakers in today’s faster moving world and many have moved away from it.   For all it’s attributes, the bottom line is that cork is not 100% reliable.  For one thing, two corks are never the same – one may be more porous than another,  therefore how can two bottles ever age identically?  A more porous cork may allow more air to enter the wine leading to oxidation.  If this happens, you have a potential vinegar issue on your hands.  These inconsistencies have caused headaches for winemakers for years.

In the ’90s, the level of poor quality cork was considered to be unacceptable by the Australians and New Zealanders.  That part of the world was already researching the benefits of using screwcaps instead of cork and many winemakers were convinced that they would be better off using this more modern day closure.

In simple terms, screwcaps do not allow air to enter wine so the wine is 100% protected from oxidation.  Screwcaps are recyclable (although not natural) and infinitely more reliable than cork.  The most important advantage of screwcaps is that they preserve the aromatic freshness and youthfulness of wine and this is a major advantage for wines designed for early drinking.

Some will argue that the theatre of pulling a cork has been lost to the rather dull unscrewing of a screwcap.  Try telling that to a busy London bar in the height of summer!

Whatever the virtues of each closure, there is no question that the quality of wine plays the most vital role to the ultimate enjoyment – it’s what’s inside that counts!


I was chatting to one of our customers the other day who recounted that he had once used a shed in Paris for the purposes of storing his wine.   I didn’t find this unusual, but was dismayed to learn that he had ended up pouring the entire contents down the sink.   ‘Why?’, I asked, to which he replied that the whole lot had been lost to the frost.   Disaster!  Or had he made a potentially fateful assumption that if one bottle was damaged, then all of it had to go?

These days, finding space to store wine can be a challenge.  I keep mine in an old coal bunker at the bottom of the garden and I know many who use a knicker drawer as a supposedly ‘safe haven’ for wine that is too young to drink (why the knicker/wine correlation, I’ve no idea)!  The crux to ensuring wine is allowed to mature safely is to provide maximum protection to the closure and to avoid any extreme temperature change.

Cork is a great closure and it’s no wonder it’s been around for centuries.  But let a cork dry out and it will shrivel and eventually disintegrate, thus allowing air to flow into the wine (oxidation) and ultimately turning the wine to vinegar.  Wine should be stored lying down (or better still at a 45 degree angle), keeping the wine in contact with the cork at all times.

Extreme heat is an absolute no-no for wine.  The expansion of the wine will literally push the cork right out of the bottle.  Once this starts happening, raise the alarm bells and save your wine!

Snowy field

Freezing temperatures are equally ill-advised, with the same expansion/contraction leading to bottles cracking or exploding.  On the other hand, a few minutes in the freezer to bring a Sauvignon down to desirable temperature is a common practice and I’m not one to dispute its efficacy at all.

 (Hands up those who left a bottle of Kintu Sauvignon Blanc in the freezer this weekend?!)

Wine generally freezes at around -12 degrees, so not too much to worry about in the UK.  What  you may find, however, is wine stored in the winter months at around zero degrees (+ or -) may become cloudy and lose it character.  Don’t panic just yet…. bring the wine into the warmth of the house when you’re ready to drink it; leave by the radiator to gently bring the contents back to room temperature, and you’ll re-discover a perfectly clear wine with its character intact.  Don’t be surprised to find a harmless sediment in the base of the bottle – this is just the ‘lees’ that have naturally filtered out of the wine.