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A friend recommended microwaving corks in a bowl of water to sanitize them...
Dec 06/Jan 07
Dear Wine Wizard,
A friend recommended microwaving corks in a bowl of water to
sanitize them. Is this a better alternative to soaking them in sulfite
Wine Wizard replies: Corks seem to be on everyone’s mind as
of late — it must be bottling time! As I think I’ve mentioned before in
this column, it’s impossible to sterilize corks and it’s almost
impossible to properly sanitize them. Corks are plugs of tree bark,
after all. Mold and bacteria are held in check relatively well by cork
manufacturers who use ozone, high pressure, sulfur dioxide and all
manner of things to knock down the populations of microbial visitors.
As I mention above, however, once the bag from the manufacturer is
opened (as they are in most home winemaking supply stores) all bets are
off as the protective sulfur dioxide dissipates, the corks dry out and
mold and bacteria take their toll. This is why many home winemakers
choose to attempt to sanitize corks before using them — we clean and
sanitize the rest of our winemaking equipment, so we at least make an
attempt at sanitizing our corks, right? Also, that little bit of
moisture can sometimes help the corks slide better into the bottles
since we don’t have the benefit of the pounds of pressure of commercial
But is microwaving corks the best way to do it? Since it’s
impossible to sterilize corks with high heat (that would take a
hospital-grade autoclave which a microwave would never accomplish) it’s
quite possible that you might only be able to heat the corks to a warm
internal temperature that might encourage, rather than discourage
microbial growth. My advice is the same as my previous answer. Try to
get unopened, fresh bags of corks and use them up among a group of
friends or your winemaking club within a month or two.
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