Natural Or Synthetic: Which Cork Works Best For Coravin Wine System?

Old Bottles of Wine, Grapes and Corks on Wooden BackgroundFor you to enjoy your bottle of wine up to the last drop using a wine preservation system, it is of utmost importance to know if the bottle is compatible with your device. If you own a Coravin wine opener, you probably know that it uses a patented needle to access a wine bottle through the cork and its success mainly depends on the cork’s ability to reseal.

Cork is the most widely used wine closure in the world, but not all corks are created equal. For instance, a Coravin wine preserver will work fine with natural corks but not with synthetic ones. Once accessed with the Coravin needle, synthetic corks will not reseal properly which causes oxidation in the wine bottle after some time.

Different Types of Cork

Different types of wine corks

To help you better understand the impact of corks in your Coravin wine system, we made a list of different types of wine corks and their characteristics.

Natural Corks

Natural corks are made from the bark of a cork oak tree, also called Quercus suber. Known for its impermeability, buoyancy, elasticity, and fire-retardant properties, natural cork is the number one bottle closure choice for most wine producers. It seals liquid in and keeps oxygen out by expanding within the bottleneck. 

This type of wine cork is made of a single piece of cork. It is perfect for long-term wine aging and works with Coravin wine openers excellently.

Composite Wine Corks

Composite wine corks are built from natural materials as well, but instead of a single piece of cork, they are composed of slabs, granules, or particles of cork glued together.

  • Colmated - A colmated cork is constructed of medium-grade natural cork with fine cork powder added to its crevices to provide a softer texture and allow smoother exit from the bottle. It is ideal for wines that require a few years of preservation.
  • Agglomerated - This type of cork is granulated cork dust held together by glue and pressure. With the tendency to break down quickly, agglomerated corks are advantageous for wines that need short-time aging.
  • Multi-Piece - Multi-piece cork is created when two or more pieces of cork are bound together. Upon removal, the cork expands, making it impossible to place it back into the bottle.

Synthetic Corks

Synthetic corks are made of plant-based materials or petroleum-based plastic that imitates the properties of natural corks. They provide consistent oxygen transfer rates and a secure, immovable seal. Unfortunately, they are not elastic enough to reseal once punctured by the Coravin needle. In this regard, we do not recommend using your Coravin wine system in accessing bottles with synthetic cork closures.

Natural Corks Vs. Synthetic Corks

Wine pouring using Coravin Model Three

Here are some differences between real corks (natural and composite corks) and synthetic corks:

  • Cellar Worthiness

Natural corks have microscopic pores that allow tiny amounts of air to enter and interact with the wine, transforming its flavor and aroma over time. For this reason, most winemakers prefer real corks over other wine closures for their age-worthy wines.

This is not the case with synthetic corks. Some wine connoisseurs claim that they detect a chemical odor in wines that have long been in the bottle with oil-based plastic corks.

  • TCA Taint Resistance

TCA or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole is a chemical compound that affects most wood-derived materials. It is caused by chlorine coming into contact with fungi during the cork’s processing. Although it is harmless, TCA can transfer to the wine and may cause unpleasant aromas. Synthetic corks, on the contrary, are not prone to TCA taint.

  • Durability

Made of wood, natural cork dries out and crumbles after some time. This is why wines in the cellar are stored on their sides to keep the cork damp. But even with meticulous cellaring, the risk of cork crumbs getting into the wine is inevitable. Synthetic corks do not have this issue. They won’t degrade or break apart even after a long time.

  • Ability to Reseal

With its elastic nature, real cork can heal and reseal easily. Unlike synthetic corks, natural and composite corks work well with the Coravin wine system.

  • Ease of Use

Plastic-based synthetic corks are said to be the hardest wine closure to open and reseal. Although not the easiest to open, natural corks are more convenient to use.

  • Environmental Impact

Cork oak trees naturally regenerate their outer bark layer, allowing cork makers to harvest them regularly. With its renewable resources, natural cork is the most ecological and sustainable choice for sealing wine bottles. Additionally, synthetic corks are not biodegradable and recyclable.

  • Affordability

Synthetic corks are more affordable than real ones. Depending on the quality, natural corks can be up to three times more expensive than synthetic ones.

Conclusion

The Coravin wine opener works with most wine corks, but we do not recommend using it with synthetic corks. It is the user’s responsibility to check the cork first before accessing a bottle with it. When used with the right cork, the Coravin wine system can preserve your wine for as long as you want. So, don’t make the mistake of wasting that good bottle. 

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to share them in the comment section below.


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  • Kevin Cottingim on

    After I remove the foil, how do I know if it has a real cork before using the Coravin?


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