Cork is one of the many historically versatile materials that has been used for thousands of years across the globe. It has been dated as far back as 3000 B.C. in Ancient China, Egypt, Babylon, and Persia where cork was used as fishing tackle. Remains of cork artificers such as shoes, floats, cask stoppers, and roofing material have been found in Italy dating back to the 4th Century B.C.E.
Cork is most well known for being used as a wine bottle stopper. Cork was originally used for this in Ephesus, dating back to 1 B.C. The Roman Pliny the Elder is credited to showing what cork is used for in Europe in 1st Century C.E, where he wrote about cork trees from Greece in Natural History. The use of cork as stoppers for bottles has evolved over the years, resulting in my different types of cork stoppers. Below are some of the many cork stoppers used today.
Types of Cork Stoppers Chart
The natural cork stopper is the original bottle stopper. It is made from a single piece of high-quality cork and has been a favorite by winemakers for centuries. The piece of cork is boiled down and then measured specifically for the type of bottleneck it will be used for. This type of stopper helps age wine while protecting its flavor and texture; this happens because cork can “breathe,” and lets oxygen interact with wine to improve the aging process by slowing down interaction with open air. Even though it can be used with any type of wine, most winemakers and experts only use these for icon and premium wines to help the aging process [Source].
Colmated cork stoppers are a stopper that is made from medium grade cork but processed the same way as natural cork. Some companies will seal the pores of the cork bark with a mixture of food resin, glue and cork dust. This mixture makes the cork visually appealing and helps seal the bottle. Since it is of lower quality, this cork is not meant to hold wine for more than 2 years. These corks are used for wines that are called “Fast consumption wines.” These wines are usually the ones seen in stores sold for low prices in big bottles. Marketers know they will sell quickly, and thus be consumed quickly [Source].
3. Twin Top
Like the colmated cork stopper, twin top cork stoppers are not made for long bottle aging. The cork is usually made of a body of mixed cork pieces, and a whole disc of cork on each end. This stopper is inspired by the champagne cork stopper and is one of the innovative inventions in the cork industry. Meeting the highest demand of cork stoppers, it also has all the benefits of natural cork stoppers because of the cork discs on either end. Twin tops are usually used for fruity wines and wines not used with long bottle aging. This use makes them suited for high-speed bottling lines and even on the same lines as natural cork stoppers [Source].
Champagne stoppers are designed for sparkling beverages as a way to keep gases in the drink while keeping excess air out. These corks are one of, if not, the most difficult cork to make. Manufacturing of this cork requires very precise steps to make sure the cork will be able to perform its function without breaking the bottle. Champagne corks are made of different types of corks. Champagne corks are usually bigger than the average cork, so it can be able to keep gases in and still help age the champagne. The body of the cork is made of granules with a binder, and the bottom of the cork has two or three cork discs sealed to the bottom of the cork. The cork is then compressed to fit into the bottle. The cork starts out in the regular, cylindrical shape of a cork stopper, and as time moves on the cork turns into the famous “mushroom” shape. This is because the part of the cork that is in the bottle is compressed, and the outer part expands naturally. Because of this, the corks cannot be reused because of how rapidly they expand. Source
Synthetic cork stoppers are one of the most recent inventions in the winemaking industry. These corks are made of plastics and synthetic materials, but still resulting in the expected quality of a cork. These stoppers have a foam core that helps the wine age while keeping all of its flavors intact. The outer layer of the core is antibacterial and provides no leakage. These corks are now being preferred for how the seal in flavors and are able to reinsert easily, meaning they retain their shape. This is because the foam in the center of the cork acts like memory foam, and the outer layer keeps its shape [Source].
Micro cork stoppers are said to be the next generation of natural cork stoppers. These stoppers are made with a granulated cork of a specific quality with food safe glue. Micro corks are used for “fast consumption wines” like colmated corks are. The only difference is these stoppers are used for wines with more complexity, such as those made in unique barrels and with added flavors. There also many different types, all originated from agglomerated corks [Source].
Agglomerated Cork stoppers are similar to micro cork stoppers because of their structure, but uses bigger granules of cork. Agglomerated corks are now one of the most used corks because of how cheap they are to make and their shelf life. These corks are made of granules and additives such as plastic binders. These are made specifically for wines that are to be consumed within six months. These corks are also one of the cheapest to make, Because of its durable structure, these stoppers can be used for up to three years [Source].
Conical cork stoppers are often called “Tapered cork stoppers” because they are versatile and can be used in different containers and with different liquids. These stoppers can be made with natural cork or agglomerated cork. They can be used to reseal a champagne bottle after the old cork is taken out, but doesn’t really seal in the flavor like the original. Home breweries also use them because they can be used to seal most bottles without the danger of breaking the glass container [Source].
9 & 10. Wooden and Plastic Bar-Top
Bar-top cork stoppers are the most versatile type of cork stoppers available. They are made with either natural or synthetic corks. The corks are then glued to a plastic or wooden top for easy opening, storing, and decoration. These stoppers can be used with wine, spices, oils, vinegar, and even cosmetics. Bar-tops can also have metal tops, stone tops, and even ceramic tops. These get their name because most bars use them because of how easy they are to re-open and for decoration. Many different cork companies even accept custom orders for these stoppers, and they are widely available cheaply. Bar-top corks are even sold handmade on online stores [Source].