Sunday, August 5, 2007

To Use or NOT to Use (Synthetic Corks, that is!)

While many tout the advantages of synthetic corks, the home winemaker should realize that there are inherent problems with using a synthetic cork to seal your wine.

If using a synthetic cork, the first visible sign that you have a problem may occur only a few short weeks after bottling. When a synthetic cork is inserted into a bottle the pressure which develops in the headspace between the wine and the bottom of the cork can be about double that when using a natural cork. This first sign will take the form of corks coming back out of bottles. An early form of this problem is that when you insert the cork into the bottle it will pop partially back out of the bottle because of the pressure built up underneath the cork.

A sidebar to this excess pressure problem is that when this pressure is doubled between the cork and the wine you have also increased the amount of oxygen between the cork and wine and this will result in a greater chance of oxidation occuring in your wine.

BlueStem Winery recommends that you continue to use corks made of natural cork product. If you want to dress up your bottle it is easy to apply a shrink capsule (these are available in many, many colors and in two sizes on our website at after corking your wine or you can use bottle wax (available in at least a half dozen different colors on our website) to decorate your bottle and as a secondary oxygen barrier. BlueStem Winery has several dessert wines that we make and the bottles that we use have what is called a "bartop" cork finish. This type bottle is larger in diameter (same cork size) and the shrink capsules do not work with these so what we do is countersink the cork about 1/8 inch deeper than normal and place a small amount of colored bottle wax into this depression. It covers the end of the cork (we use silver a lot) and makes the bottles stand out when lying flat in a wine rack.

We are interested in your feedback. If you have a topic that you would like us to address please e-mail us at or at and we will post your question and our answer on this blog or on our website newsletter. Your questions can be about home winemaking (equipment, supplies, ingredients, procedures or ingredient kits) or we will also respond to questions about home brewing equipment, supplies, ingredients, procedures or beer making ingredient kits.

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