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To cork or not to cork, that is the question.

To cork or not to cork, that is the question.

We periodically get questions about our bottle closures and storing wine.

“Ok, so I get that you continue to use cork. That’s nice. But why don’t you make the switch to screw-tops. They are so much easier to open and store an unfinished bottle. And it seems like the industry is moving in that direction.”

Wine writers like to ask this question after they see one of your competitors switching to screw-tops.

We think screw-tops are a mixed bag of pluses . . .

  • They absolutely prevent the transmission of oxygen into the wine.
  • They are easy to use.
  • And they look good too; it appears you have a capsule when you don’t.

. . . and minuses:

  • Because when you put that partial bottle of wine back in the refrigerator, you are locking in a gigantic dose of oxygen from the air space created after you drink some of the wine. Say you have a half bottle. That space contains enough oxygen to rapidly degrade the wine within days.
  • Our biggest concern is that soft plastic or plastic foams are used in the interior of the screw-cap to seal the cap to the bottle. In our modern world, it is hard to live without using plastic. And when you’re done with the bottle, that bit of plastic is headed to the land-fill. However, cork, which is produced sustainably now, gives us a non-plastic choice.

Let me be clear. We don’t pretend to be perfect. We’re practical people that like tasty wine and like everyone else, we have to make rational choices in our lifestyle.

But, in this case, with our values top of mind, we’d rather avoid the use of any plastic where we economically have that option. Especially where that usage is “one-time” on a one-way trip to a landfill.

And let me be clear about something else. We don’t question the food safety of plastics that are allowed contact with food. We let the US FDA worry about that. Our decision is simply based on the idea that we’d rather not use plastics where we can avoid them.

As an example of a compromise that we do make: We use two kinds of cork. On our more expensive bottles, the cork is a solid piece of wood cork from the bark of the tree. However, for our less expensive wine, we use a cork that is “engineered” with two disks of cork and then a cork conglomerate of micro pieces of cork in-between. All of that is held together with glue. And glue is a chemically engineered adhesive.

Obviously, we’d rather not use glue for that purpose but the economics of the micro cork help make the wine affordable. Our design choice is to minimize the impact by selecting the micro version with the disks on either end rather than having the entire cork be the glued micro-pieces.

Ok, so you’re probably thinking:

“I get all that. So what do you think is the best way to store a partially opened bottle of wine.”

We think Chardonnay is at its best when its contact with oxygen is kept to a minimum. And for the average consumer, like us, we think that keeping the wine under vacuum with as much oxygen removed from the bottle is ideal. To do that, you need to “vacuum” out the air in the top of the bottle.

An easy to use product we use is Vacu Vin Wine Saver. It’s $15-20. You can buy it on Amazon (ASIN = B07ZTXD1R6) and it will keep wine fresh far longer than attempting to re-cork or close that screw-top. (Just make sure you hear the click that the vacuum has been completed.)

I frequently use it to store partially opened bottles of wine that I use for cooking. (By the way, it is made of plastic but you’ll use it over and over again.)

For example, I stored a half bottle of our Nouveau in the refrigerator. I opened it nearly three months later. It was as good as the day I removed the cork! In fact, I was delighted that some fruit esters escaped the wine liquid and filled the open space of the bottle. When I removed the Vacu Vin top, I got a very exciting nose-full of fruit and cotton candy aromas!

(Yes, I sniff wine bottles after I open them! Don't you?)

A side benefit of using a vacuum method: You can open multiple bottles at once, say for a tasting party, and not worry about wasting the wine in partly filled bottles.

Of course, your guests know the answer to that problem. All you have to do is ask them!