The little cork stopper that plugs your favorite wine bottle is intimately associated with it. Some of us even have our favorite wine corks, or have a little cork collection graffiti on the wall, or even use them for growing orchids! Cork is a supremely versatile material that’s nice and elastic, and also almost completely impermeable, so it’s perfect for wine bottle stoppers.
Somewhere during a class I was taking, a rather interesting (and informal) discussion on pricing wines for a market came up. And the discussion here was based on wines with plastic or cork stoppers.
Sacrilege! You scream. Only cheap wines have plastic stoppers. Any real wine worth it’s price has a nice cork stopper.
And then you’ll justify it by saying “wine with a plastic stopper doesn’t taste right”.
But then, is that because the plastic stopper spoils the wine, or is it because of what we, the “market” are ready for? Could other economic lobbies be influencing this as well?
What are cork’s advantages or disadvantages? It’s very environmentally friendly to use cork (the same trees are harvested of their bark once every ten years). The cork looks rather nice on the bottle. It is elastic and waterproof, and fire resistant as well. Wine making has become used to the cork, and so the wines made account for it, and mature well with cork stoppers. But its major disadvantages are that its supply is inelastic (trees can only be harvested once every ten years), a crop failure would cause havoc for cork (and the wine industry) for the next decade, some cork (especially the cheaper ones) can cause cork taint in the wines (ruining the smell). Also, almost all the world’s cork grows in Portugal and Spain (which make decent but not spectacular wines) while the best wines are made in France, Italy, America (California and Washington), Chile, Australia and South Africa.
So clearly, there’s plenty of economic incentive to make wine bottle stoppers out of plastic or some other synthetic material. And obviously, this has been thought of by plenty of people other than me, because a good number of wines now come with a plastic stopper.
But, in the States, and Europe as well (the world’s major wine consuming regions), plastic (or other synthetic) stoppers are associated with cheap wines.
So (and this is just to see what people think), would you buy wine with a plastic stopper? What if the winemaker decides to launch a premium wine with a plastic stopper, and price it more than it’s nearest competitor, to make it sound and feel special. Would that work? How about a separate range of synthetic stoppers for premium wines, as opposed to the cheap wines? Will that work?
As for me, I still like the cork wine stoppers. There’s a nice feel good factor associated with it.