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Wine Corks Fight Off Alternative Stoppers

The radical reinvention of the once-humble cork.

Each wine cork tells a story: A weekend in Maine, a silly party, a proposal served up with Champagne. But nothing ruins a night like wine tainted by rotten cork. Some 300 million bottles a year — about 2% of all wine — are "corked," leading the industry to experiment with alternatives.

Synthetic corks can require Herculean strength to get out. Easy-opening screw caps — about 10% of the market — have all the romance of parking-lot drinking. Glass stoppers "will not give you taint," says Kyle Rossler, a VP at Encore Glass, which distributes Vino-Seal glass closures. But glass is pricey, and it's "popular in Germany," making it the David Hasselhoff of wine closures.

"Anyone who's gone away from cork wants to come back," says Erin Grace, director of imports at the distributor Winebow. Cork makers are fighting taint with improved manufacturing processes, and wooing consumers by promoting cork as sustainable, complete with a recycling initiative with Whole Foods.

Still, dreamers like Tim Keller persist. He has created VinPerfect, a screw cap that regulates air into the bottle. VinPerfect-sealed wines should debut in 2011, and Keller hopes to obliterate cork in three years. On the off chance he prevails, better hold on to those keepsakes.

Photograph by Dan Saelinger

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  • Patrick Spencer

    We at Cork ReHarvest want to thank David Lidsky for his insightful article on natural cork and alternative closures. We are very proud to be partnered with Whole Foods Markets in a global cork recycling program. Our goals for the program are not only to recycle the billions of natural corks going into our landfills, but to help educate the public about the vital importance that the Mediterranean cork forests have to our planet's biosphere. It's important to also state that alternative wine closures are not sustainably sourced, renewable or biodegradable, these closures are not earth friendly choices. We encourage everyone to choose wines with natural cork and to let your retailers, restaurants and wineries know you prefer wines closed with natural cork. Please visit our to learn more.