The war has been brewing for decades: Can synthetic corks topple the might, natural cork closure in a bottle of wine. Well, we’re here to settle the debate once and for all by declaring a winner in the battle for keeping wine in a bottle until you are thirsty enough to drink it.
The Case for Cork
For the longest time, natural cork’s argument had little to do with anything but tradition. It’s just how the Bordeaux houses have been sealing wine for centuries. That nostalgia wins over hordes of folks who love to romanticize over every aspect of wine. Well, we’re here to tell you that there’s a much more compelling argument. It’s green. Harvesting a cork tree — most come from Portugal and the Mediterranean — is a sustainable form of farming. Trees reach a minimum level of maturity after 25 years, and can be striped of its bark every nine to 12 years after that. These trees can live up to 250 years. Plus, cork is easily recycled (at Whole Foods for example) and turned into flooring, shoes and many other products. Or it can make for nifty arts and crafts projects. Cork taint does happen, but it’s becoming an even more rare occurrence, and these seals let in just a minute bit of oxygen, which can really help a wine age beautifully over time.
The Case for Synthetic
Man, these products are good. They never seem to have cork taint issues with the wine, for one, and are extremely affordable. Sure, they don’t feel right to traditionalists, but they are pretty darn effective, especially when used in wines that don’t need to be cellared for a dozen years. The drawback, in aging, being that the synthetic material doesn't expand with a bottle and can eliminate all oxygen seepage, which is actually a bad thing for wine’s development. The added bonus being that the ones we use are actually recyclable and can be tossed in your big purple Denver bin.
You’re not going to like our ambiguity — especially when we teased you by saying we were going to settle the debate once and for all — but we say there’s room for both (and we use both). Just like there is an occasion for just about every well-made wine, there’s a reason to use both synthetic and the natural stuff. So stop thinking about it too much, enjoy the wine and find a way to recycle whatever type of cork you wind up with on your countertop.