View Full Version : Need your input for questions on corks

02-21-2006, 01:34 AM
OK folks, here's your chance to ask the manufacturer. I'm going to seek an interview with Nomacorc, the largest synthetic cork mfr in the US. They happen to be right here in central NC where I live, and I think that its time GM did an interview with them. I hope to do this in early March.

So, your homework assignment, should you choose to accept it:

What questions would you like me to ask?

Vicky - laying plywood for a new subfloor and packing to visit family Feb 21-Mar 1

02-21-2006, 03:04 AM
Well for me I'd like their comments on what kinds of long term studies that are published for synthetic corks. Based on what I've read anything past two years has come under question by the wine community, and based on that I would be interested to hear what independent studies show in the wine regions of the US and abroad.

Here's a link to an article published in 2005 about the "perception" of cork and alternative closures, notice that screw-caps are only about .4 behind natural corks in favorable ratings.


Also, in another "article" (seems more like a press release) from Supreme Corq there are claims that synthetic corks are seen as more desirable than screw caps based on a study done by Wine Intelligence in the UK. Personally I don't buy it, but one never knows.


While we're on corks, here's a couple of links to some new TCA abatement articles in Wine Business E-zine:



So that should give readers some background on the Cork vs. Screwcap vs. synthetic cork story and help spark some good questions.



02-21-2006, 09:20 AM

I'd like to know if the Nomacorc breathes at all. In my use of them, they seem to form a perfect seal as good as a crown cap. I've never had a single one leak liquid or gas (apparently) in several hundred examples.

However, I have only used them for a couple of years and they haven't gone through much stress (such as fluctuating temperature).


Scott Horner
02-21-2006, 10:05 AM
I too would love to hear what their answers to the long term storage and breathabilty questions. I have started using Nomacork in all my meads. You just can't find good nautural cork anymore.

02-21-2006, 12:31 PM
Here's a few...

As a follow-up to the breathability question: assuming these do not breath at all, is there any thought or research towards developing a synthetic cork that does simulate the breathability of natural cork -- hopefully without any of the dangers associated with traditional such, like cork taint, etc.

Exactly what kind of plastic(s) - I'm assuming they're plastic -- are these made from?

If a non-damaging cork remover is used (such as those kind with the "fork" shape, where the "tines" slip down inside the bottle next to the cork, allowing the cork to be removed intact), do they feel that these corks could be sanitized and reused?

Do they make, or plan/hope to make in the future, a champagne-style cork? If so, how would such a cork work?

What kind of corker do they recommend be used with their products by the home mead/winemaker?

If kept in typical mead/wine storage conditions (i.e., a cool, dark place), I'm assuming that these corks will more-or-less last forever. Are there any storage conditions that are bad for them? Are they UV stable, etc.?

Can they be warmed in hot water in order to make them a little more pliable for insertion into a bottle? If so, is this a good or bad idea?

Finally, a silly question: A ship carrying a load of mead or wine sealed with these corks sinks into the ocean and is lost for 5,000 years. Future archaeologists discover the hulk at, oh, say, a couple of thousand feet down, and, using advanced future technology, are able to raise it again. Assuming the glass bottles are undamaged, will the seal still be intact? Remember that the pressure is immense, and that it's very cold down there. Will the salt water degrade the synthetic corks over time?


02-21-2006, 02:29 PM
I too would love to hear what their answers to the long term storage and breathabilty questions. I have started using Nomacork in all my meads. You just can't find good nautural cork anymore.

I'm glad you asked this, I was going to ask a very similar question... based on what I've found the normacorq is only good for 3 years, or perhaps longer under "ideal conditions". I'd like to know what those "ideal conditions" are, and if any efforts are underway to develop an even longer lasting synthetic cork.


02-22-2006, 11:03 AM
I too am interested in the aging potential of a mead/wine that has been sealed with a synthetic cork. What we know of quality aged wine is that currently it has experienced some amount of slow oxidation through the cork. Synthetic corks are said to be a superior closure that will prevent oxidation.

What studies have been done on long term aging, and what results were found?

Are any side by side comparisons being conducted?


02-22-2006, 12:52 PM
Hi all,

I would also be interested on objective studies regarding ageing and how long one can store wine/mead etc. with a plastic stopper.
A few of my pro winemaking chums have started to put plastic stoppers into some of their wines that they expect not to be kept that long. They also speak of a maximum of 2 years. :-\
The plastic stoppers here are in about the same price range as a decent natural cork so I don’t see the point in going from a natural down to earth product to a synthetic one - especially if we all know that resources in that area are going to become rare in the near future.(prob. making synthetics more expensive)

Sadly the commercial wine industry in Europe has even gone one sad step further and is now "forcing" vineyards into using aluminium screw caps. They do this by making standard "straight neck" wine bottles hard to obtain and offering bottles with necks that are similar to that of a bottle of JD. This makes it impossible to insert a cork - synthetic or not. >:(
This means you can't even recycle the bottle for private use unless you have the top that fits - and lets face it - these aluminium screw tops don't take a lot of opening and closing before they are broken.

Sure if you have to make do with what you can get your hands on, or you don't care what the wine/mead etc. you buy or make is kept in - fine.
For me the traditional way of opening a bottle belongs to the ritual and the long lasting culture of drinking wine.
I don't think it is appropriate to not have that little bit of extra time to appreciate a wine/mead that has been ageing for years by just unromantically unscrewing it.
Otherwise we will be drinking Hautes Côtes de Nuits 1997 from a TetraPak soon.
Making mead as well as wine has something to do with passion and a feel for nature in my opinion and should stay well away from the fast and stressful trend of commercialisation that gets forced upon us by the economy.

Call me old fashioned but that is the way I see it at present - no offence to people that think otherwise.

My additional question: How long do they think the trend of plastic stoppers will last regarding the new trend in the EU to go "screw top"?


Corvus - who is now a bit grumpy and will go an sample some mead as a sacrifice to the gods ;D (you have to love that excuse)

02-22-2006, 01:14 PM
To me it's pretty simple.

I generally crown cap my stuff, but I have a lot of corks left so I'll finish those out and see about different alternatives. Screw caps provide a superior seal to that of cork, and synthetic corks are good for 2 to 3 years based on my reading.

I doubt very much that the EU is forcing anyone into using screw-caps. This is really a simple question of financial sense. There are a growing number of bottle losses in the wine industry due to TCA "Cork Taint" that are becomming unacceptable to both the wine producers, and the retailers. The New Zealand wine industry is moving in the direction of screw caps, the Australian wine industry is moving in the direction of screw caps, the California wine industry is moving in the direction of screw caps, and there are plenty of folks in Italy, France, Spain and Germany that are moving in that direction as well.

Again, this isn't because they're being forced into doing it, it's because they are losing an unacceptable number of bottles to cork taint. Screw caps have been a proven technology originally manufactured by Stelvin in France.

The mead industry will move in that direction as well, especially when you have guys like Mike Faul who just put up a bottling line that can do 29 bottles a minute. He indicated that once he runs out of corks, his bottling line is already socketed to start cranking out screw caps. Bonny Doon, RH Phillips, Seghesio, EJ Gallo, in California alone are pushing in the direction of screw caps and more are joining in week by week. Again, they're not being forced, it's a simple question of shipping a quality product under a bulletproof seal that won't taint your mead or wine.

Here's a good article about screw-cap pros and cons.




02-22-2006, 04:19 PM
Hey Oskaar,

I get your point - no doubt about it, bottle loss costs a lot of money.
I think what needs to be compared here are the dimensions we are talking of.
A lot of the American, Australian, French and also the vineyards in New Zealand are massive and have unbelievable output.
To big companies it makes a lot of sense to simplify methods and reduce costs this way. The small vineyards have to take what they are offered unless they want to go to extra costs of finding a supplier that will have and also deliver what they want.
I would describe it more as passive aggressive rather than active force. Sure nobody is telling them that they have to buy screw tops, it is a problem of availability and expense.
If the suppliers for winemaking gear stop offering a product that you have had till now and replace it with something slightly different - it's take what they have or leave it and pay more for what you had in the beginning.

Again, I am talking small scale here... an example:
"....many more of New Zealand’s 500 wine producers are using screw caps ...."(in the article you linked)
Austria is 83 858 km2 large, of which 65% are declared alpine, a total of 47% are woodland and we have
about 24 000 (twentyfourthousand) winemakers.
Austria fits into California five times, into New Zealand 3.2isch times.
In other words you can fit most of those vine yards on the back of a postcard – they are just so small.

From industry's point of view its the best thing that could happen, for the small winemakers - I doubt it.
They usually get the bottles back from the customers who bought their wine, which means they will have to buy some kind of additional capping device to get new screw caps onto their bottles.
Most of the work is done by hand.
But that is only a small problem compared to the work and time that will have to be invested in getting the remaining aluminium ring or coating off of an old screw cap bottle.
For winemakers that produce 1000-3000 bottles a year it means lashing out on new equipment and more hard work.
I think it will only be profitable for a hand full of winemakers. I don’t share the EU trend of “the bigger, the better”.
It has shown too many times in the past that that attitude drives many a small but wonderful craft into extinction together with its products.

What speaks for synthetic stoppers or screw caps is the fact that there are less problems regarding hygiene and quality issues. Some natural corks are infected with fungus causing the wine to get off tastes or even worse.

As I say , I am probably old fashioned - I prefer small local winemakers and the regional specialities that come with diversity. My personal view is that everything that poses a threat to diversity is also a threat to quality of life.

What the uncorking of a bottle is concerned, it’s my personal subjective feeling.
I like the slight tension and excitement when the cork starts squeaking as you slowly pull it from the bottle. Everyone present is silent and awaiting the moment the cork comes out with a plop which is followed by a barely audible sigh from the audience. ;D


Corvus – who is still sampling ::)

02-22-2006, 07:22 PM
Hey Corvus,

I understand what you're saying. My family has a winery in it (Bodegas Rafael in Ensenada Mexico) and living in California I know a ton of small wineries and winemakers throughout the state. Smaller wineries here, as well as thoughout the world can also take advantage of economy of scale. It's a common practice here in California for smaller wineries to share resources, and share costs. If someone has an ozone barrel cleaning system, many other wineries will bring their barrels in for cleaning etc.

Trust me, smaller vintners and family winemakers will find a way to make it work for them. It was one of the hot topics of discussion at The Unified Grape and Wine Symposium in Sacramento earlier this month, and at ZAP as well.

The times they are a changin' and people in the industry know this, however, based on the cork industry I doubt very much that we'll see corks going away anytime soon. They're finding ways to improve the quality of their corks and taking a very strong marketing campaign to the streets. Bottom line is it is an entrenched and traditional method of closure, and there are many who prefer it which is a personal choice that really cannot be argued.

I'm more pragmatic when it comes to what I make and what I buy. To me it's nice to sink a corkscrew into a nice cork and feel it give way, right up until it comes all apart and you have to carefully pull the rest out without getting pieces into your wine or mead. I've gotten very good at it.
Most of the wines that I buy are still closed with corks, but there are some that are now offered with screw caps so I buy those to encourage the winery to increase their production of those wines. I don't have a problem opening a fifty dollar bottle of wine with a screw cap on it as long as it drinks like a fifty dollar bottle. Tradition is great as long is it makes sense, after all . . . leeches have made a comeback ;D



02-23-2006, 08:58 AM
Great thread!

<<Tradition is great as long is it makes sense, after all . . . leeches have made a comeback >>

Did they ever go away? :o

The Honey Farmer
02-23-2006, 01:48 PM
Excellent reading Oskaar. Maybe MD 20 20, NightTrain and Ripple did have it right after all. ;) ;D :o


02-23-2006, 07:33 PM
If they had only used their knowledge for good booze instead of evil booze!



02-24-2006, 12:51 AM
Oh, man! I had one of the worst hangovers of my entire life after taking a long midnight ride on the Night Train! :o