What’s Going on with Our Wine Corks?
Posted on Thu 31st Aug 2017 at 09:04
There have been a lot of articles in the media over the past few years about cork and wine corks, posing questions like: Are supplies running low? Has the wine cork been slain by the screw top? Will any of its attempts to ‘fight back’ really work?
While all these articles are very interesting, it can be a little confusing to anyone who just wants to know what’s actually going on. To help you navigate through this confusing topic, we’ve delved into the subject and created a quick Q&A on the current situation – for 2017 at least.
- Why was there a problem for cork in the first place?
Two reasons really. One is a fact that has been around for as long as wine corks themselves: cork contains a chemical compound called TCA. This can cause ‘cork taint’, a process which spoils the wine in the bottle and which is estimated to write off around 7% of wines. The second is the new millennial audience, which has less of a problem with buying bottles of wines that have screw caps.
- So why don’t we just use screw caps?
While ‘cork taint’ is an easy scapegoat, the TCA compound is actually found in lots of organic materials, including wood, water and soil. In other words cork doesn’t deserve to be the scapegoat it has been. In addition the tradition of stopping bottles with corks is over 400 years old and comes with a romance and elegance that can’t just be replaced overnight. That said, screw caps have made huge inroads into the wine industry in the last few decades.
- Just how popular is each method today?
Cork has lost about 40% of its market share since the 1980s. Nowadays about 20% of commercially sold wines are closed with screw caps, largely at the cheaper end of the market, and a further 10% have plastic corks.
- That’s a big loss. Is cork really fighting back?
Yes, although it’s perhaps a bit of a longer slog than the media has suggested. Over the last decade cork manufacturers have heavily invested in new technology, equipment and refining techniques that have reduced the amount of TCA by up to 95%. It’s also made the whole process more efficient and even carbon negative. Their efforts are starting to be noticed, too, and the amount of corks used is slowly rising again. It helps that cork is, ultimately, a fantastic way to preserve wine as it’s naturally flexible and squishable.
- So which one should I choose?
The most important thing for consumers is and always should be what’s in the bottle. That said, there is a wonderful heritage and natural style that comes with cork-closed bottles and we think that should be celebrated.
Read our blog here to find out where Stobi's cork design takes it's historical inspiration!