Glass Wine Corks - What Will They Think of Next
We had to evacuate our beach vacation on Friday and made it through Hurricane Irene last night safely although our power went out this morning. I wanted to follow up from my last post about dinner at Quahog's Seafood Shack in Stone Harbor, NJ.
With everything from octopus ceviche to barbecued Pacu Pacu fish ribs to a Brazilian version of cioppino called Moqueca on the menu, that is story enough and if you didn't see it, you can read the post at Dining Out in Stone Harbor.
But that's not what I want to tell you about today. The real surprise of the night came when the waiter uncorked the bottle of Calera Chardonnay that we'd brought with us and presented us with something that looked a bit like a glass drawer pull. It was actually the "cork!"
Now, I'm familiar with synthetic corks, and I've even gotten used to screw tops on nice bottles of wine, but this is the first time I'd ever seen a class cork. I did a little research and it turns out that its official name is Vino Seal, and it's produced by Alcoa. It first came on the scene in 2003 in Europe, and some American winemakers began using it for some of their wines as early as 2006.
Advantages of a Glass Cork
There are a couple of really nice things about the Vino Seal. For one, it looks a bit like a regular decanter stopper, which is kind of cool. It certainly looks much nicer than a plastic cork or a screw top. Maybe I'm a bit old school, but I really do like natural cork. I also realize that, while natural cork has been in use the longest and is the most accepted wine closure, it is not always the best choice.
Since cork is an agricultural product--the thick, spongy bark taken from a living tree--there are some down sides to its use. For one, sometimes the phenols present in cork can react with the wine, causing cork taint. Wines that are "corked." In short, mold forms and contaminates the wine. Sometimes the wine can smell or taste like mildew, but other times, the wine just might taste a little. "off." Regardless, anywhere from 5-10% of wines sealed with natural cork can end up with cork taint.
Since the Vino Seal is made of smooth glass, there is no chance of its interacting with the wine in any way. The seal part of the Vino Seal is achieved with a small O-ring under the lip of the stopper. This creates a hermetic, or air-tight, seal.
Another plus of the Vino Seal is that it is reusable. If for some reason you don't finish your bottle of wine, just reinsert the stopper into the bottle. The O-ring again creates the seal, and you can finish your bottle the next day. You can't do that with natural or synthetic corks, because to pull a cork, you have to basically drill a hole all the way through it with your cork screw.
Wines that are sealed with almost any closure other than natural cork do not have to be stored on their sides. Natural cork needs to be kept moist to maintain the tight seal. Store your wine upright for too long, and the cork dries out, shrinks and then there goes your seal. While this is a plus for the Vino Seal, it can also be a minus. The foil that covers the seal and the neck of the bottle helps to maintain the air-tight seal. So, when unopened, you can store the wine either lying down or upright, but once you open the bottle, it is best to keep it upright to prevent any minor leaking.
Overall, I think that the Vino Seal is a pretty elegant solution to wine closure. And while this very cool, classy way to seal wine is still seen primarily in German and South African wines, it is already taking hold here in the United States, with wineries in both Washington State and Napa Valley, California trying out the Vino Seal on some of their wines.
Oh, one more downside of the Vino Seal? You can't play the cork came where you drop the cork on the table and see who can get it to stand on end in the fewest tries. It's a small price to pay to end up with such an elegant wine stopper, so maybe I'll just start carrying an old cork in my pocket, just in case we get the urge to play the cork game.
Have You Come Across A Glass Wine Cork Lately?
I'm interested to know how many of you have see this new type of wine closure and what wines are you finding it on. Please let me know in the comments section.