When winemakers in Niagara set out to create delicious VQA wines, there are two approaches. Some wines are made to drink right away but others are best after they age — this is where the bottling process becomes exceptionally important.

Why Do We Need a Cork?

As red and white wines age, the amount of oxygen that enters the bottle can create very different conditions and results. When too much oxygen interacts with white wine, it can compromise the flavour. On the other hand, if no oxygen is present, many wines develop undesirable aromas. So, the way a bottle is sealed will directly affect how much oxygen enters the wine year over year. When Niagara winemakers look at how they want to seal their wine, they need to consider how much oxygen will enter the wine, so they can pinpoint at what age the wine will be at it’s best.

What Are Our Options?

There are three major options available to consider: the natural cork, the synthetic cork, and the screw cap. Natural corks have been around for about 250 years and until about 20 years ago, they were essentially the only option. They are products of the bark of the cork oak tree which is harvested every seven years.

Synthetic corks are made of polyethene and they perform almost the same as natural corks with three exceptions: there isn’t the chance for mould, they let in a little more oxygen, and they are very consistent in the way they transmit oxygen.

Screw caps are actually two parts: the metal cap and the liner that creates the seal. Based on the metal used to manufacture these caps, they either let a little more or a little less oxygen into the bottle of wine.

The major difference between a screw cap and a cork is important when you will be aging a bottle long term. The natural cork is the only tried and true option for this. Centuries of testing has dictated that natural cork allows just enough oxygen in over the course of time to allow your wine to reach its peak flavour.

If you’re planning on bringing home a bottle from your favourite Niagara winery and enjoying it with dinner, then the type of closure is up to you! If you love the ceremony of opening a cork, then choose those bottles, if the convenience of a twist off cap is more your style, no one can fault you for that. During your next wine tasting or when you’re ordering wine from your favourite winery, keep in mind how long you’ll be storing your wine, then choose a bottle with the appropriate seal.