Any decent bottle of wine must have a good cap, one which prevents all oxygen from entering the bottle and protect the liquid from unpleasant intrusions so that it is pleasurable to drink for the consumer. There are many types of wine caps available on the market nowadays.
The most popular of wine caps is the well-known cork. It is the material of choice by tradition – lightweight, durable, waterproof and elastic which ensures insulation.
The cork made its way into history around the 17th century, along with the glass wine bottle and of course the corkscrew. Nowadays, the cap of choice is made of stainless steel, as cork has become more and more rare and consumers have become more educated and able to recognize the defects that corked bottles sometimes produce. Cork caps are 100% natural but sometimes defective when it comes to fully sealing a wine bottle.
These are some of the criteria used which reintroduce old systems and new materials into capping wine bottles. Here are a few of the current wine cap options on the market.
There are various types of wine corks. The most common and most valuable is the one-piece cork which is made from a single piece of cork (as the name suggests). This cork lasts for 30 years if kept moist by the wine it is protecting.
Then there are the agglomerated corks which are made from pieces of cork which by themselves are too small to constitute a one-piece cap. They can be assembled together in various ways and some of these have superior quality washers at their base so that no particles of cork come in contact with the wine.
The encapsulated cork is usually used in liqueur wines (those that do not oxidize even when open) and are made with the intent of being removed and put back into the bottle several times.
Finally, there is the champagne cork which is usually called a “mushroom cap” which is 2/3 agglomerated cork and 1/3 2 cork washers merged together. The mushroom shape is due to the pressure which they are subjected to, in particular the part which is inserted into the neck of the bottle.
There is quite a variety even in metal wine caps. The most common type of metal cap is the crown cap, used mostly for lesser expensive wines which are drunk on a daily basis. This cap allows for vertical storage of wine bottles. Screw caps are another type which are used on inexpensive and easily reusable bottles, typically for long-lasting use. These must be used on bottles which are specifically designed for screw caps.
The range of possible wine caps does not stop at cork and metal. There are other materials which have recently been introduced and frequently used among which for example is the polyethylene mushroom cap. The quality of these is not one of the best on the market and are generally used on inexpensive wines.
There are also synthetic wine caps which have been used since the mid 1990’s. These caps can be made of silicone or even more complex materials. They are generally used on non-precious wines, young wines and for “ready to drink” wines which do not require aging. These offer an ideal replacement for corks, especially thanks to how sterile they are and that they are unlikely to crumble.
Glass is an incredibly efficient form of wine cap, as it is immune to the decomposition due to time and environmental factors. These are frequently becoming more and more common, especially since glass is already a main material used in the storage of wine – it is no coincidence that wine bottles are made of glass. From a commercial point of view, these caps have a very important advantage – they are aesthetically pleasing.
But let’s remember that the needs of the market don’t always prevail over tradition! Perhaps the long life of the cork is not over just yet!