Glass closures - more elegant than the cork?

Related tags Wine Bottle

Last week Alcoa began commercial production of Vino-Lok, its
glass-on-glass wine closure system. Has upmarket wine finally found
an alternative to the screw cap? asks Kim Hunter Gordon.

The glass stopper is one of the latest solutions to the winemaker's problem of closure. About 1 in 20 bottles of wine are spoiled because of unstable chemicals in natural cork. But, the aesthetic and tactile appeal of cork is profitable. Producers are faced with dilemma of whether or not to use alternatives.

One of these have been synthetic corks, which are the same shape as traditional corks but made from artificial materials. These have, however, come under heavy criticism for not sealing the bottle well enough. Too much oxygen gets to the wine too quickly and can ruin either the ageing or preserving process. Alongside this, the rare but pinching reports of "plastic taint" also continue to surface.

Screw caps, which have recently won praise from famous wine critic Robert Parker, are of enormous benefit to the 95 per cent of wine produced that should be drunk within four years of its vintage. For wines that need to age, however, it is thought that the small amount of permeability natural cork allows is necessary.

Screw caps do have further benefit to the consumer in that they are re-sealable. But, they are not aesthetically pleasing and have become associated with poor quality wines that have used them for some time because they are cheap.

Vini-lok is a glass cap with a sealing ring, which will preserve young drinking wine just as well as the screw cap. Moreover, its elegant design should enable it to win where the screw cap lost on looks. The glass lid is more attractive than a screw cap and it doesn't have the associations that go with it. Vini-loks are also, like screw caps, re-sealable. But, they will be more expensive and equally as unsuitable for ageing wine.

The sealing ring, made from ethylene-vinyl acetate, is currently used in mineral water bottles. It is resistant to wine constituents and will not influence taste, say manufacturers DuPont.

The airline Lufthansa has already signed a deal to have its on-board wine selection fitted with the closures. It is likely that other suppliers seeking a more elegant cork alternative for their wine will do the same.

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