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TRIO Guide: The Cork

Friday, 27 August, 2021

Opening a bottle of wine is a ceremony in and of itself for wine lovers, but are we giving sufficient recognition to the cork?

Corks and wine have gone hand in hand since the beginning of winemaking, with the former’s primary function being to protect the latter from outside influences. However, the origins of cork use is a story worth sharing.

The cork is a stopper made from quercus suber, an evergreen oak tree that is principally found in Spain, Portugal and France, and can live for over 200 years.

Bringing a quercus suber to harvest requires nine years while the process is environmentally friendly, as it’s done without machinery and only the bark is cut, rather than the entire tree. The bark’s porous and thick structure make it easy to cut, providing the conditions for a long life for your favorite wine.

If you look at a cork under a microscope, you will be able to see millions of cells that are formed by suberin, a waxy substance characterized by its elasticity and permeability. Also within the cells of corks is a gas mixture which enables them to float.

Thanks to cork, the wine receives just the right amount of oxygen, which enters through the irregularities in the cork, or its lenticels. This roughly translates to: the greater amount of lenticels, the less duration the cork will have and a smaller impermeability capacity.

To maximize usage of your cork, take into consideration the humidity levels it is exposed to, ideally concenctrated somewhere between 60-70%, more or less opens the possibility that the cork can produce fungi that can taint the wine. To avoid such a misfortune, the bottle should rest in an inclined position so as to permit the cork to remain in contact with the wine, and thus keep it from drying out.

For this reason, the location where you keep your wine is fundamental. Avoid keeping it in the kitchen, as heat from kitchen appliances can negatively affect the wine. Instead, store your wine bottles in a fresh and dimly lit place with good ventilation.

in "TRIO Guide: The Cork"
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