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Cork; As a bottle stopper
Cork, as a culinary interest, is used as a bottle stopper, and has the advantages over other materials in that it is breathable, and if kept moist remains expanded. It has the disadvantage that as many as 8% of all corks used develop a condition that makes them taint the wine they often enclose - the wine is then declared corked. This condition should on no account be confused by a small piece of cork harmlessly floated in a wine glass. Science has so far failed to solve this problem - although investment is considerable, and a solution will probably be found.
Although plastic corks (which actually account for less than 1% of all wine stoppers) are seen more, they have considerable consumer resistance, as wine to many people has a special-occasion image. They are also very hard to replay if the bottle isn"t finished at one sitting. Screw-top bottles also suffer from an image problem, for although people are very willing to see them used on prestigious spirits - to are at the moment too associated with cheaper wine.
As things stand cork will continue to be the main form of stopping wine bottles, particularly in the EU, where cork-oak plantations have 100% subsidies - leading to an increased acreage of 4% during the year 2000. See 'Cork'