TRADITION – Reasoning that older ideas are better because they are accepted and have existed longer.
Enjoy a bottle of wine?
The corking preference for wine is an example of tradition trumping practicality. Winemaker David Noyes defends this tradition, “Wine has a value that has nothing to do with its taste or flavor – it has a metaphysical value. Cork is a natural product and a traditional closure for wine. You are going to come across corked bottles from time to time – that’s just part of the mystery.”
The traditional cork for a bottle of wine has been used for 300 years and is made out of oak bark from Portugal. A synthetic cork or a screw cap are two alternatives that seem to preserve wine better. These are resisted, especially for higher end wines, for the lower perceived status of non-traditional corks.
A major problem with using natural corks is cork taint. Tainted corks are infected by mold and ruin the flavors of the wine. It is estimated that upwards of 5% of corked wines have this problem. Since the cork industry is a natural monopoly, it has done little to reduce this problem.
Another issue is that natural corks leak oxygen. Wines age in the bottle with no need for oxygen. Synthetic corks are tighter, allow in less oxygen, and preserve the wine better. Winemakers have a preference for synthetic corks in wines they keep for at least 8 months.
The advantages of a synthetic cork or screw cap are virtually identical in terms of wine freshness. Possibly the only major advantage of a synthetic cork is that it has a more traditional feel, though the screw caps add convenience. Bottles with a screw cap can be opened anywhere without a corkscrew, and even experienced wine tasters occasionally struggle with a cork occasionally.