There wouldn’t be any wine if it weren’t for wine corks and screw tops. Although discarded soon after popping open a bottle of wine, wine stoppers matter in more ways you can imagine.
Here are ten things you didn’t know about wine corks and screw tops because they deserve some recognition. And don’t forget, if you want to pay homage to these closures where they matter most, let us take you in a private winery to tour to Yarra Valley. Let our chauffeurs take you on the comfiest and most exciting Melbourne private tours. Let’s get started!
- For corks, the name of the game is patience
Cork makers must wait 25 years before harvesting the cork oak’s bark to make wine stoppers. After that, they must wait from 9 to 12 more years to collect the same tree again. That’s patience right there.
- Corks can be quite expensive
There are many corks, from the cheap cork clusters to one-piece, premium Grade-1 corks. The cheapest corks can cost as little as a few cents, but the premium 2-inch corks used in the world’s best wines can cost up to AUD 1.50. Some finished bottles of wine don’t even cost as much.
- Cork stoppers have been around for a long time
We have used the bark of cork oaks for centuries for lots of things, but they became the most important bottle stopper in the 1600s when they replaced glass stoppers. Interestingly enough, the corkscrew wasn’t invented until 100 years later.
- Cork stoppers used to ruin wine
TCA, a compound found in some cork barks, is responsible for the wine defect known as corn taint. The compound makes wine smell like wet cardboard and damp basement. Luckily, cork producers have improved their quality standards to such an extent, cork taint is now rarely encountered.
- The screw caps were first used in Europe
Yes, Australia and New Zealand bottle most of their wines with screw caps and were liable for the wine stopper revolution, but the first commercial winery to use screw caps was a Swiss company in 1970. The innovation first capped a Chasselas white wine.
- Australia and New Zealand champion screw caps
Australia and New Zealand are the most significant users of screw caps for wine bottles on earth, and it’s not inexpensive bottles anymore, but premium wines. In these countries, it’s rarer to find a cork than a cap, and we’re starting to see this in other continents now.
- Let’s call them Stelvin
You might know them as screw caps or screw tops, but their actual name is Stelvin, the name used to patent the aluminium closure. Stelvin is trademarked by the largest cap producer in the world. Did you know the French invented the Stelvin?
- That’s a lot of screw caps
Today, 99 out of 100 Australian wine bottles are topped with screw caps, although they’ve been used widely only since the year 2000.
- Then there’s plastic
Plastic corks are cheap, and not amazingly effective, yet producers use them around the world to cap inexpensive bottles. The synthetic cork has been evolving, though, and the best plastic corks are almost impossible to tell from real cork.
- Screw tops can breathe
The foremost reason traditionalist producers use cork instead of screw tops is that they claim corks breath, which is healthy to wine. The latest screw cap models, though, let some air come through, and that’s changing the world of wine once again.
Ain’t Wine Amazing?
As you see, wine is not only about grapes. It’s about bottles, corks, screw tops, barrels and, of course, the people. See the entire process, from grapes to bottle, in a private winery to tour to Yarra Valley. Our Melbourne private tours are unique opportunities to experience winemaking up close.