Alternative wine closures

Alternative wine closures

Alternative wine closures are substitutes used in the wine industry for sealing wine bottles in place of traditional cork closures. The emergence of these alternatives has grown in response to quality control efforts by winemakers to protect against "cork taint" caused by the presence of the chemical Trichloroanisole or (TCA). [ [ USA Today August 3rd, 2006] ] [ [ Business Wire August 9th, 2005] ] The cork-industry group APCOR cites a study showing a 0.7-1.2% taint rate. In a 2005 study of 2800 bottles tasted at the "Wine Spectator" blind-tasting facilities in Napa, California, 7% of the bottles were found to be tainted. [ [,1275,5398,00.html Wine Spectator March 31st, 2006] ]

ynthetic corks

Synthetic corks are made from plastic compounds designed to look and "pop" like natural cork, but without the risk of TCA contamination. The US company Nomacorc is the world's largest producer of synthetic corks. [ [ Seeing tons of new wine drinkers, Nomacorc opens China plant - Triangle Business Journal: ] ] Disadvantages of some synthetic corks include difficulty in extracting them from the bottle and difficulty in using the plastic cork to reseal the wine. [ [ Wine Guide] ] James Laube of "Wine Spectator" notes that some can also impart a slight chemical flavour to the wine. [cite web| last= Laube |first= James, "Wine Spectator "|title= Changing With the Times | url=,1275,5398,00.html date= March 31, 2006 ]

Unlike natural corks, many synthetic corks are made from material that is not biodegradable. [ [] ] There are two main production techniques for synthetic wine closures: injection molding and extrusion (mono- and co-). Methods also exist which are claimed to combine the two techniques of injection and extrusion. A 2007 study by Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2 University showed that synthetic cork allowed the highest levels of oxygen permeation in when compared to natural cork and screw caps, offering the lowest protection against oxidation of the wine. M. Kramer "Seeking Closure" The Wine Spectator pg 36 October 31st, 2007 ]

crew caps

Screw caps or "Stelvin caps" are closures made only from aluminum material that threads onto the bottleneck. They are the predominant closure used by New Zealand wineries. [ [ Providence Journal] ] This can be attributed in part to the New Zealand screw cap initiative which promotes the use of screw caps instead of cork. Screw caps form a tighter seal and can keep out oxygen for a longer time than cork. These benefits aid in maintaining the wine's overall quality and aging potential. Michel Laroche of Domaine Laroche noted that this played a role in his decision to start utilizing screwcaps. "Extensive quality tests show convincing results: apart from protecting against cork taint, screwcaps are also beneficial in the aging of wine, particularly preserving the aromatic freshness." [ [ South African Wine News] ]

Despite these positives for the wine industry and consumers, a disadvantage of screw caps according to wine expert Jancis Robinson is that "consumers still perceive screwcaps as being for ‘cheap’ wines (regardless of the price tag)." [ [ 2nd article] ] In a 2004 study of consumer opinions conducted by the wine consulting group "Wine Intelligence" found that 52% of American consumers reject the idea of using screwcaps for their fine wine. [ [,2403,BSUN_19071_4837394,00.html Kitsap Sun] ] The 2007 Victor Segalen University study in Bordeaux showed that screw caps closures allowed the lowest amount of oxygen permeation when compared to natural and synthetic corks, offering the highest level of protection against oxidation of the wine.


Vino-Seal is a plastic/glass closure released by Alcoa. Since its introduction into the European market (under the name Vino-Lok) in 2003, over 300 wineries have utilized Vino-Seal. Using a glass stopper with an inert o-ring, the Vino-Seal creates a hermetic seal that prevents oxidation and TCA contamination. A disadvantage with the Vino-Seal is the relatively high cost of each plug (70 cents each) and cost of manual bottling due to the lack of compatible bottling equipment outside of Europe. [Andy Perdue "Glass adds class to Oregon Wine" "Wine Press Northwest" Summer 2006] The design has won a "Worldstar Award for Packing Excellence" from the World Packaging Organization. [ [] ]

Vino-Lok Selection (the glass version) has been available in Australia since 2005 and is being used by some of Australia's leading winemakers to seal their iconic wines. Numerous contract bottlers around Australia are able to apply the seal to bottles with the Vino-Lok Finish. Automated machinery to apply the glass stopper and the modified aluminium short-cap are now available also.
A wide range of bottle shapes and colours are also stocked by local agents Dal Cin Australia [ [ Dal Cin - at home in Australia ] ] , including 375ml & 500ml bottles ideally suited to fortified wines, as used by "All Saints Wines" [] in Victoria's Rutherglen region.
Vino-Lok not only protects the wine from leakage and gas transfer, it is also easily resealed to the bottle, making it ideal for any wines which may not be consumed immediately upon opening. The incredibly small oxygen transfer rate allows the wine to mature in the bottle slowly, allowing the consumer to cellar the wine safely for many years, and still enjoy the wine as the winemaker intended it when it is finally opened. Stephen Henschke of Henschke Cellars in South Australia's Barossa Valley, claims the wine's maturation in a 750ml Vino-Lok bottle is similar to using a screw capped magnum (1.5lt) bottle.
One package built around the Vino-Lok glass stopper and a clear-glass bottle has won numerous packaging awards, including the "Gold Medal at the 2007 Australian Packaging Awards, [ [ 2007 Australian Packaging Awards ] ] for Reschke Wines" [ [ Reschke | Reschke Coonawarra - Welcome ] ] of South Australia's famous Coonawarra region. This is the first wine package to win an award at this prestigious competition.


Invented by Conor McKenna and developed by John Brooks in Adelaide, South Australia, Zork is an alternative wine closure that seals like a screw cap and pops like a cork. The Zork closure consists of three parts; an outer cap providing a tamper evident clamp that locks onto the European CETIE band of a standard cork mouth bottle, an inner metal foil which provides an oxygen barrier similar to a screw cap, and an inner plunger which creates the ‘pop’ on extraction and reseals after use.

Crown caps

The traditional crowned bottle cap has been used in the sparkling wine industry as a closure during the bottle fermentation process (méthode champenoise). Normally the cap is replaced with a cork before shipping, though recently some producers are releasing wines using the crown cap as their closure. The crown caps provide a tight seal without risking cork-taint [ [] ] . Although easier to open, crown caps eliminate part of the ceremony and mystique of opening a sparkling wine. [ [ Wine&Vine Magazine, May 2004] ]


There is continuing opposition to the use of alternative closures in some parts of the winemaking industry. In March 2006, the Spanish government outlawed the use of alternative wine closures in 11 of Spain's wine producing regions as part of their "(Denominacion de Origen)" D.O. regulations. [ [ Business Wire March 27th, 2006] ]

ee also

*Box wine



* [ Survey on the wine industry's view on different closures]
* [ The History of Screwcaps]
* [ Corks Vs. Screwcaps]
* [ New Zealand Screw Cap Initiative]

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