Winemakers have been struggling for centuries to keep out unwanted oxygen from their hooch. Oily cloth used to be favorite as well as animal hides. Today winemakers from California, Oregon and all over the world have four choices and all have their advantages and disadvantages.
The most common closure is of course the Natural Cork closure that roughly 80% of wineries in North America use. They vary in size (some are as long as my thumb!) and quality but get the job done. They are expensive ($.75 to $.90 each) but many consumers equate quality wine only with natural cork.
Sometimes you may see a cork that looks like its made up of tiny little pieces of cork mashed together. Well that is what is known as a Technical Cork or a Composite Cork which can be found in bottles from most parts of the world though I see them less than in the past. It generally is perceived as a second best option as it looks and functions almost like a natural cork.
Synthetic closures are what we are seeing more of as they are becoming more accepted—even in those bright colors. They are usually targeted for use with wines that are made and consumed within a 12 to 18 month time frame. I don’t mind these rubbery little plugs but at times they can be more difficult to remove (and they don’t look as good in those little cork trivets you see in the winery gift shops).
The Screw Cap of course brings back fond memories of the generic wines of my youth. Well it’s full circle on these easy to open (no removal equipment necessary) closures as they are coming back into vogue as we get used to the idea seeing these on $20+ bottles of wine from reputable winemakers. In the U.K. and in Australia screw caps are well accepted and widely used for all types of wines.
The bottom line on closures is they all have a reason for being. Wines needing ageing should have a natural cork. Technical corks are cheaper and can work almost as well. Synthetic plugs work just fine and are cheap. Screw caps are retro and frankly get the job done just fine--and a lot better than an old sock.
We like to keep our wine healthy in the bottle and ready to fill our glass.