The length of the cork is determined by the potential laying down of a wine . Good estates adapt the corks to the different types of wines they have . Long laying down wines will receive longer corks on the bottles .
On the picture above, all the corks are from Alphonse Mellot's wide Sancerre wines range : Different sizes for different wines . Some of his Sancerre reds have the long 52 mm corks while whites get the 49 mm cork . Note that 49 mm is already quite a long cork , the most common size being something like 45 mm .
The quality of these corks increase the bottling costs . Good quality corks are treated against TCA ( trichloroanisole ), the mysterious chemical element that in contact with wine gives it ( some say on 10 % of bottles with corks ) this musty and flat taste . Here we call it " gout de bouchon " .This TCA obsession must not become excessive , this unpleasant taste disappearing sometimes after a while . Even with the slight risk of having a TCA tainted bottle, traditional corks remain associated with a nice wine experience and ritual : The nice pop when uncorking , the smelling of the wine side of the cork ...
Even in France, synthetic corks are discreetly making a debut . They are alternatives to the traditional corks, the high demand of wich has brought a tight market and high prices for the production of the two main european producers , Spain and Portugal . Synthetic corks are also an alternative to screw caps, as they preserve the cork touch and feel . More security as for the TCA risk, even if some say TCA can also spoil the wine bottled with these types of corks... At least they allow some of the traditional decorking ceremony that wine lovers appreciate . And the fabric of these plastic corks begins to imitate real cork, although there is still some progress to make . Some makers even say you can smell the wine side of the plastic cork like you did on real corks . Some of them are hard to extract, though , and also to replace ( need to be improved ) . The ink on these corks does not hold as easily , like the " Mis en bouteille a la propriete " here . This one was on a bottle of Vignoble de Flavigny " Auxerrois " 2002 .
Another plastic cork : Composed of high density foam encased in a thin rubber like sleeve . Nomacorc-extrusion corks are another variant of synthetic corks . Nomacorc was originally a subsidiary of a company ( Nomaco ) making plastics for automotive, toys , packaging . Now an independant company based in Zebulon , North Carolina, it went from a 10 million corks output in its first year ( 1999 ) to over 1 billion corks capacity and it exports all over the world . The fabric of these corks is supposed to emulate the physical properties of real corks . The down side is that with their dual composition they look less like the real thing . But research will bring better looks , I am sure . This cork was in a Jacky Preys bottle .
Screwcaps are not unknown in France : This picture shot in the Angers exposition hall cafeteria shows where you typically find these screwcaps bottles today : In eateries , cafeterias and other self serve restaurants . Still limited to the ordinary half-bottle wines sold in these places . It is quite ironic as the main manufacturer of screwcaps , Stelvin, is a subsidiary of french giant Pechiney . Here is a link to a webzine wich explain in detail the invention and trials of the screwcap in France . By the way, and to reassure you (about the wine on the picture): No one in the Loire wine fair seemed to have one of these bottles for lunch (and it had nothing to do with the closure)...
What we call screwcaps are, to be precise, aluminium screwcaps with plastic liners . The liner makes the tightness of the cap . Bottles are not sealed from inside the bottle neck like with a cork , but at the top of it . Screwcaps make their way to quality french wines, especially those with high export volumes . These twist off actually might be the most secure way to age wine without accidental alteration .
At Domaine des Baumard , an estate located in the Savennieres Appellation, wine bottling with screwcaps began in 2003, with 50% of its 2003 "Trie Speciale" cuvée ( pictured here at the Angers wine fair ) , and all of its Anjou white half-bottles .
Nomacorc, the high-density-foam-in-sleeve cork, is the choice for secure samples like here, for a Chateau le Crock Saint Estephe 1998 Cru Bourgeois, wich was one of the wines selected at a wine tasting event named " Club des Grands Domaines " and that took place on the Seine near the Eiffel tower on a barge (Maxim's) . Echantillon means sample in french .