The Romans had already discovered the properties of cork and used it to seal wine amphorae. The use of this material was then abandoned for a long time, until, with the refinement of the glass bottles, the first factories arose in Provence towards the end of the seventeenth century: in the same period the legendary Don Perignon found the material in it ideal for capping your Champagne.
Cork is obtained from Quercus suber or cork oak, which begins to bear fruit only 20/30 years after planting. In fact, the first extraction occurs when the tree has reached a circumference of 60 cm and a height of 130 cm from the ground.
The cork consists of a fabric of superimposed cells in ordered and regular planes, made of cellulose, lignin on the outside and a layer of suberin in the intermediate part. The latter is the organic substance that gives the cork the properties that make it ideal for closing wine bottles: resistance, almost total inertia and impermeability, flexibility, adherence, combined with easy workability and considerable capacity of duration.
The cork is subjected to a complex process of processing that does not sometimes prevent the infamous “cork taste”, which irremediably affects the contents of the bottle, from being transmitted to the wine in a more or less intense manner.
When the bottle is just uncorked, how should the cork be presented to be called a good cork?
Meanwhile it is good to check the length: four centimeters are enough, even if today we even get to seven, it ensures a proper seal, given that the wine, keeping the bottle lying down, gradually tends to soak the cork.
Feeling the elasticity between the fingers, a good cork is never hard but it must not even be too soft.
Smelling the cork we must smell the wine: if this is not and a pungent sensation prevails, it is possible that the liquid has ruined. The confirmation will come after a small taste: sometimes it is essential to put the wine in the mouth to realize a “cork” defect.
Today, with regards to the use of the cork in general, a lively debate is underway: for many it is irreplaceable, both for reasons of imagination and suggestion, and for technical reasons. Others, also in consideration of the fact that the reserves of cork collected are running out while the demand continues to increase (every year around 20 billion are manufactured), they would like to reserve corks for the most important wines such as those for aging.
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