How to Make Wine Stoppers

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A good wine stopper is a handy tool to have around for any true aficionado. Learn how to make wine stoppers the right way with help from the owner of Celebrations Wine Club in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Wine Topics
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Video Transcript

I'm Anna Maria Knapp, owner of Celebrations Wine Club, and I'm located here actually in the tasting room of beautiful Veras La Vineyards and Winery here in Napa Valley. The topic is how to make bottle stoppers. When you reach for a wine on the shelf you're concerned about what's in the bottle. I'm going to give you some information that will switch your focus maybe to what's on top of the bottle as well. The first closure that we're all most familiar with and actually dates back to the 17th century when it was first mass produced to top glasses, glass bottles that the English at that point had invented a process for mass producing bottles, mass producing glass bottles and wine moved from where it had previously been stored into individual glass bottles. So the most important function of a closure, any closure, and certainly cork, is that it prevents the wine from being oxidized, turning sour, it prevents oxygen from ruining the wine. Corks are made from the bark of oak trees actually. And most of these forests in the world are in Portugal, Spain, and North Africa. The other thing that cork does is it allows, natural cork, it allows a wine to age. And the reason that it does is because it allows just a tiny, tiny trickle of air to penetrate the cork into the bottle. And that air, too much of course ruins the wine, but a tiny bit of it over time allows all those changes that take place when a wine ages. Cork however has a dark side. And that dark side is that about 5% of corks are tainted. They're tainted with a mold that is actually natural on bark. And it's activated by chlorine. The industry's done a lot in the last few years to prevent that from happening. But chlorine is in water and it still does happen at one point in the chain or another. So cork taint initially is almost not recognizable and wine makers get most upset with it at that point because you would just come to the conclusion that you didn't like the wine, you might not ever buy the brand again. In its later stages it's very pronounced. It has a serious moldy smell and flavor. So literally, that 5% failure rate is hard for at least some wine makers to swallow. And the race has been on to find other kinds of closures. This closure is aggregate cork. This happens to be for sparkling wine. You can see sort of the little particles. They're glued together with some kind of food grade glue. And they are compressed. They're completely biodegradable. They wouldn't last over time to age a wine. And like natural cork they're not only biodegradable but you know, cork forests actually are important for various reasons. They protect species that would otherwise be extinct and that area would be paved over if it wasn't for its economic viability. The next cork that is common in the marketplace are the plastic corks. I don't have one here as an example but they're perfectly obvious when you uncork a bottle. There's no mistaking what that substance is. The problem wit those corks is that they don't protect the wine for more than 2 years and maybe even less. They are not biodegradable. So they top wines that you're going to drink immediately. Especially whites. This closure is picking up a lot of users these days. This screw cap. This is the bottom part of it and the screw cap, the problem with screw caps is first of all, the great thing about them is that they're convenient. The problem with them is that they're air tight. So if the wine that goes under a screw cap it's probably made a little bit differently than with cork that allows air to penetrate. But still there can be sulfur taint because this cap is totally air tight. So these can also ultimately ruin a wine. They are not environmentally positive in any way. They're made from aluminum which comes out of the ground, ends up in landfill, you can't recycle it. It is what it is. You'll probably love it if you're having a party and you have to open a lot of bottles. Servers like it because it's very easy to just twist off the cap. This is an interesting closure. It's called the Zork. It originated in Australia. You peel away this bottom part and you lift up the cork, it pops, in case you like that sound that you get from natural cork. This Zork, so called, will actually preserve the wine for up to four years. It is completely recyclable. Not biodegradable of course. And then last the glass top. It inserts into a bottle. It's covered with foil and there's a little plastic washer around the part that fits into the bottle, that ties it in. And the foil does part of that job as well. This will not, you can't age a wine really with a glass closure. But it's totally biodegradable and recyclable and it's a very attractive closure. It's now being used for expensive white wines. And actually this and this, the glass closure and the Zork are both expensive which is probably the reason that you don't see them all over. One reason anyway. And they're as expensive as actually premium cork over here. So what ultimately competes with wine, at least, in some way is going to be up to the technology in a few more years. Actually we'll just see how any of these closures other than cork, how they develop and how they develop in terms of cost as well. So next time you buy a bottle of wine think about what's on top of the bottle.


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