The best cork for your bottles - Homemade wine tips

Not enough has been said about how to make homemade wine that will turn out right by using the correct sort of cork to seal off the wine bottle. Actually, the type of cork you select to seal your wine bottles is of crucial importance - it can mean the difference between producing quality wine and junk.

How to Make Homemade Wine with a Quality Cork

Your local wine making store will probably sell you the "agglomerated" type of cork for your wine bottles. Agglomerated cork is cork manufactured from smaller bits of cork compressed together. It also happens to be the lowest quality of cork available for vintners to use.
If you want to use quality cork when learning how to make wine from home, then do try to get cork that has been cut out of just one piece of cork bark rather than individual bits glued together somehow. The cork that was cut out of the cork bark as one piece is the top quality cork that wineries use nowadays.

Pricing for Cork Varieties

Your run-of-the-mill agglomerated cork will sell for around 20 US cents per piece. The top-quality cork that wineries use cost about 75 US cents apiece. Though the agglomerated cork may seem like a cheaper and better option for making homemade wine, the agglomerated cork tend to induce leakage of your valuable wine, leaving the wine inside the bottle tainted by outside elements.

Why Quality Cork is Valuable for Making Homemade Wine

Wineries use the top-quality cork to cut down on any spoilage of wine. At present, around 5% of wine produced by commercial wineries is ruined by cork spoilage. This is equivalent to spoilage of one out of 20 bottles of wine.
Cork spoilage is attributed to fungus that has tainted your wine bottle cork. The prevalence of tainted cork (even those that are brand new and have never been used to bottle any wine) is the main reason that wineries have shifted to using the synthetic type of cork or the screw-top covers instead to bottle wine. You might be surprised how many top-quality wine makers are using the metal screw-tops rather than traditional cork nowadays and it is all to avoid pricey spoilage of their valuable wine.
The reason cork bark-based cork is still being used today is that it is the traditional way to seal off wine bottles, has been in use for centuries, and often looks better than synthetic cork or metal screw-tops. But there are clear advantages to switching to synthetic cork to seal off your wine bottles too.

The Advantages of Using Synthetic Cork

Synthetic cork is a good option if you want a good alternative to the traditional top-quality winery cork. There are some advantages to using synthetic cork. One is that synthetic cork is inexpensive - you can buy a bulk amount of synthetic cork of about 1000 pieces which boils down to around 20 US cents per synthetic cork. This makes it just as cheap as the agglomerated cork.
But synthetic cork is better than agglomerated cork because cork spoilage is avoided. You can stop doing those special things to avoid cork spoilage like turning empty wine bottles upside down or letting them lie down.

There is no need to keep synthetic cork wet either to use them to bottle your wine. You can keep the synthetic cork right side up instead of upside down and it can still be usable. Plus, synthetic corks are not limited by the humidity level of your storage system like cork bark-based cork is. This allows you to buy synthetic cork in bulk volume then store them for even a long time and they will still be useful for you.

The Disadvantage When Using Synthetic Cork

Though synthetic cork can be easier to use for wine bottling than traditional cork, their disadvantage is that they are hard to use with hand corkers for sealing your wine bottles. To seal the bottle properly with a synthetic cork, you have to have a floor corker around.

Problems Inherent With Use of Cork

Natural cork bark-based cork manufacturers have also invested a lot into research as to the causes of cork spoilage and how they can make traditional cork stoppers that will not cause wine spoilage - this has led wine spoilage attributed to bad cork to go down significantly. Often too, it is the winery that is at fault too because of the way they handle corks prior to stopping up the wine bottles, so wineries have to take care that corks are not tainted prior to sealing off the wine bottles.

One major flaw in traditional cork use is that you need a corkscrew or perhaps cork puller to remove the cork before the wine can be drunk. This could also be a problem with use of synthetic plastic corks. By using a corkscrew, you damage the cork often beyond the point where it can be re-used. It is embarrassing for restaurant staff to have to sieve out bits and pieces of the cork that winds up in the wine liquid just so patrons can drink it. It then becomes a problem for both staff and customer as to how the leftover wine in the bottle can be stored - should it be discarded after the wine bottle has been left open at the customer's table for hours, or can a better option for covering the bottle be created once the cork has been destroyed?

To prevent damaging the cork during the sealing off stage (after the wine has been made and you need to seal it off for storage) you should use a floor corker - preferably the type that act like an iris to compress the corker. This may be more costly than the single lever, twin lever, and compression corkers around but the iris-type is easier to use and are more precise for inserting the cork into the bottle. Hence, there is less potential damage to the cork, and less resulting damage to the wine inside.

Once corking is finished, it is advisable to let your bottles stand upright for another 24 hours so that any surplus compressed air in the wine bottle can sneak out. If you store the bottle on a rack horizontally immediately after corking, the pressure from within exerted by the surplus compressed air may even push out the cork itself and wine spills out. Once the 24 hours are over, the wine bottle can be safely stored horizontally and is even preferable because the wine touching the cork inside the bottle will prevent leaks by letting the cork stay moist.
By: Randy T. Slabey
Copyright 2008 RTS Leasing, LLC
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