Get Closure! The different types of stoppers for wine and spirits
The science behind the bottle stopper could make your eyes water; it has to be just right. This is why the closure a wine or spirit maker chooses for their bottles is one of the most important decisions they will make for their product. Let’s take a quick look at the key options and debunk some myths along the way:
Cork vs. screw cap?
Much has been said over the years about whether cork is better than the screw cap. The resounding answer to this however, is that it’s horses for courses: screw caps are perfectly fine, particularly for aromatic whites, lighter reds and wines that are ready to drink straight off the shelf. They keep the wine fresh and are incredibly convenient. Corks however, allow a tiny amount of oxygen exchange, which helps the wine’s flavours blend smoothly together as it ages, increasing complexity. This is what makes them the best sort of stopper for wines that are laid down to age. Corks have their own problems too though, with occasional cork taint being the biggest issue for consumers. There are various options of cork you can get with some being a lot more expensive -and higher quality -than others. Those made with a single piece of inner bark cork tend to be higher quality (and more expensive) than others made with tiny pieces glued together. This is because the former has just the right spongey consistency whereas the latter can be a little too compact for ideal oxygen exchange.
Mushroom shape vs. straight
Straight-sided corks are used for still wines as they don’t need to withstand so much pressure from the CO2 in the bottle, like corks for sparkling wines do. The mushroom shape for these grip the neck of the bottle tighter to keep those bubbles in check!
Plastics corks tend to be used for less expensive wine. They are much cheaper than cork, but can be quite hard to remove from the bottle, allow no oxygen exchange and generally, don’t do much for the aesthetics of opening a bottle of wine.
Like wines, screw caps are often seen on bottles of spirits as it’s particularly important for them to avoid oxygen contact. The more luxury spirit brands tend to use a cork stopper with another piece of material (plastic, glass, metal etc.) with branding on the top. For higher-end brands, the bottle stopper can be a mini piece of art created by artists or designers, as can be seen on the luxury Hennessy decanters. A cork is preferred with half an inch of headspace to allow expansion of the liquid inside the bottle in warmer climates. The ‘artistic’ piece of material on the top prevents the oxygen exchange from the outside. Spirits should also be kept standing to avoid the high alcohol content of the liquid from damaging the cork.