Tainted Corks have caused the great debate of Natural vs. Synthetic. Synthetic corks and screw caps are cheaper to produce, and don’t get the mould like contamination. They are ugly but I’ve finally come to accept screw caps at least, but what I really like is the new sexy glass Vino Seal (pictured immediate left), which I think should be put on good reds over $50.
Traditional Corks – These corks do have a lot of good history on their side (such as Dom Perignon realising their potential), but you may get a “corked” wine, in which the cork has been weakened, letting tiny amounts of air into the bottle over time, and hence the wine, allowing contamination of TCA compound (not a health risk with wine). This ruins the wine character/body/aroma/taste etc., creating undesirable aromas and flavours, such as a musty or mouldy odour. I like the whole feel of opening with a cork, but although TCA contamination doesn’t happen too often, it’s enough to be of concern. The traditional cork industry’s market share has dropped below about 50% as a result, and trying to fight back.
Glass / VinoSeal – Really like these ones, and they do seem to work well, and are pretty. Clear Glass with a thin plastic or silicone ring for air-tightness. However they’re expensive, I think nearly $1 (AUD) per seal. Also there is a lack of proper bottling equipment outside Europe. Hope that there’s some way to get these onto at least some really nice Aus wines… If I spent so much time and effort into making a great wine, I think a $1 closure is deserved for it (and when you’re already spending a couple hundred over a wine, what’s the $1 extra for a great closure?)
Stelvin – these are the aluminium ones, the Screw Caps. Penfolds started putting them on the BIN389 and 407s couple years ago and that was big. Whether they’ll do it to Grange is still of debate (imagine spending $1,000 on a bottle and then finding it to be tainted! – but Penfolds do have a service where they “check” your Grange and replace if necessary). Many say stelvins ruins the cermemony feel or joy of opening a nice bottle of wine, but more are starting to accept it. Most wines are drunk soon after purchase anyway, and most table and cheap wines are the biggest market for Stelvin and Synthetic closures.
Synthetic Corks – These are the FUGLIEST things ever. And smell crap and synthetic. I don’t find they “pop” like a cork (which was an aim of the Synthetic cork makers). Some say if the cork comes out easily, it makes it a non-event, people don’t care, and pulling out a plastic stopper just looks cheap. But the main thing that bothers me is that synthetic smell (if you smell closely), and the fact that the wines been in contact with plastic, even though small. Usually these are “cork” beige colour or red (but sometimes they get cow prints or something to match their label). The beige colour is to try and look like a normal corky cork – don’t even try.