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Exploring The Corking Options

TroubleShooting

John Battistini — Estell Manor, New Jersey asks,
Q

What are the pros and cons of using synthetic vs. natural vs. agglomerated corks? Is there a recommended cork for someone making about 100 gallons (380 L) of wine a year and should you sanitize the corks? We use sodium percarbonate to sanitize, but would you recommend something better?

A
The choice of bottle closure is a topic that winemakers the world over debate with regularity. Every time a new bottle closure or packaging method comes out (twist off? Glass? Stainless steel kegs?) the pros and cons are trotted out, and for very good reason. Whether for function, form, or just for marketing purposes, there are many reasons why commercial winemakers (and for that matter, a winery’s marketing department) would choose one over the other. This is too widely ranging of a topic to treat thoroughly here so I’ll just stick to those closures that home winemakers are most likely to have available to them and to be using: Full natural corks, “1 + 1” agglomerated corks, 100% agglomerated corks, and synthetic corks. Before I dive in, let me answer your last question about sanitizing corks. Most closures are packaged pre-sanitized, usually with sulfur dioxide in the sealed bags that come from the manufacturer. No commercial winery I’ve ever known soaks or sanitizes their corks before bottling because they buy closures in the thousands from reputable suppliers with high turnover
Response by Alison Crowe.