The Importance of Corks – Corks and Caps in Sherry Wines

As you may have heard, last summer at Lustau we had a lot of fun with our first series of Sherry Roundtables with expert panelists. In a series of five separate events, each on a different topic related to the world of sherry, we broadcasted live and recorded these sessions for podcasts. On July 27th, 2020 we held the second episode titled “Bottle aging, is sherry a wine to cellar and are consumers ready for it?” I was joined by a group of renowned Jerez connoisseurs to talk about the development in bottle of these world-class wines. As expected, the question of the use of different closure alternatives and how they may affect any potentially prolonged bottle aging periods was raised. Here is the link to the entire series: https://lustau.es/en/enjoy-lustau/sherry-roundtables/.

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For this month’s blog post, we decided to dive further into the various closures that are traditionally used across the sherry region. To that end, we reached out to two of the most knowledgeable people in the area; Sara Rodríguez with Grupo Torrent, the locally based expert in all sorts of stoppers for the beverage industry, and our own Fernando Pérez Sánchez, Lustau Master Blender and Director of the quality control department.

As a general rule, once in the bottle, the maximum period of time in which sherry will maintain its original characteristics depends on the type of sherry in question. The bottle evolution of these very unique wines will be determined by their overall quality and potential. In theory, the most delicate wines are those aged biologically, such as Finos and Manzanillas. Removing them from the cask produces an important change in their habitat, suddenly leaving them unprotected by the film of yeast and preventing direct oxidation. These wines usually develop faster and considerably more than, say, dry oxidative styles which in contrast are aged in direct contact with air (such as Olorosos and Pedro Ximénez) As a result, these possess very high levels of stability provided by the intense oxidation process undergone inside the butt.

Having said this, bear in mind the maximum amounts of time during which any wine may be kept in the bottle. This process is accelerated once the bottle has been opened. Although in the case of certain sherries, it is not absolutely essential to drink the bottle all at once, the exposure to oxygen as soon as the cork has been removed accelerates the natural development of the wine.

Below are Sara and Fernando’s remarks on the subject:

Sara explained that nowadays in the sherry DO, there are 2 widely used closures: the micro-granulated cork closures and the aluminum ones which work extremely well with these wines. She said, “We regularly recommend both micro-granulated cork closures and those made of aluminum for sherry wines. Currently, our production of closures, molded for best fit, is ideal because in the case of finos and manzanillas, they allow us perfectly to control two particularly important goals: preserving the wine’s quality and oxygen content.

Controlling the quantity of oxygen is not crucial for the rest of the sherry wine styles (such as Oloroso, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Cream, Médium and Pedro Ximénez). Therefore, a good closure option is the head cap stopper, which is made of a micro-granulated body with a head or crown. The plastic crown can be made of polystyrene/polymers, wood, or other materials. Since sherry wines are typically consumed by the glass, with one bottle lasting several days, our recommendation is to select the crown cap micro-granulated closure.  Moreover, it is preferred that the cap can be easily opened and closed after each use.

Also, the crown cap closure will not leave undesirable scents or tastes, due to the TCA controls in our Sustainable Volatile Substance Extraction System. Other benefits include:

– Avoiding the presence of cork particles that can happen with a natural cork.

– Disinfecting the grain and cork to prevent dust particles.

– It is 100% sustainable.

– All closures function in the same way, due to our ensuring the quality and guaranteeing there are no mechanical errors.

– They are manufactured in Jerez supporting our local economy, woodlands, and the working population.

When speaking to Fernando, he stated that traditionally crown caps have been used mainly for their convenience when opening and closing bottles. We also should keep in mind that most of the sherry wine styles that use this type of closure are oxidative and without oxygen being an issue, the practicality of these closures is considerable. Over the years, the ALTOP caps have become popular because it’s a composite cork with a high percentage of synthetic spheres that allows it to be airtight, making it an incredibly good substitute for the screwcap, that has also seen public acceptance for quality wines.

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