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Wine Corks

A bad cork can ruin even a superb wine.

There are two reasons for a cork to be 'bad'. The first, is totally out of our control - a chintzy wine producer who decided not to make that extra investment in a good cork. And how much would that extra investment have cost? No more than an extra penny or two per cork!

The second reason is certainly in our control - wine storage. Wine bottles should be stored lying down, always. Whether it be in our own personal wine cellars or wine racks and certainly in the places where we purchase our wines. It's fine for a wine seller to have a couple of bottles of wine standing upright for effect, but before buying too many bottles, verify that the bottles had been stored lying down. Better to buy one expensive bottle, open it, check the cork, and then to return for more bottles if you enjoyed the wine.

It is a shame to invest in an expensive wine and be left with nothing more than a very expensive vinegar.

There are three types of corks:
Real Corks - are made from parts of the cork oak (Quercus suber) tree. Sheets from the tree are stripped from the bark and then dried, bleached and treated against bacteria. They are cut to size and shape and placed into the bottle. Moisture, released by the wine, causes the cork to swell thereby providing an airtight fit.

Without a real cork, wine will not age well. There is, however, one caveat. A good wine, with a real cork, stored badly, will develop a "corky" taste. And sometimes, for no good reason, the cork just goes bad.

Reconstituted Corks - are made from compressed cork chips and dust. They do not absorb moisture and do not lend themselves well to sealing and storing wine.

These corks are appropriate for wines with a short shelf life. Some wines are made to be aged, others are not. Vineyards can get away with these corks in those bottles that should be enjoyed immediately after production.

Plastic Corks - are lots of fun when you pop them, but they are the worst of wine corks. They are very difficult to tug out of the bottle and have no value short of keeping the wine in the bottle.

Always be careful popping these corks. They have a tendency to fly away from us and can injure anything from the vase your aunt gave you as a gift, to your eyes.

And then there are Screw Tops. No wine worth drinking is stored in a screw top bottle. These tops are reserved for bubbly, tickle your nose, wine-like beverages. And they work wonderfully with sweet kiddush wine and grape juice.


Micah Halpern is the wine reviewer. See other articles and reviews by Micah Halpern.
You can contact Micah directly at

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