Cork was used to making fishing buoys as early as the fourth century in Egypt. However, no one knows for sure when the first cork was used to close a bottle of wine or corkscrew to open the first bottle of wine. Corks have been discovered in Roman shipwrecks going back to the fifth century BC, although they do not seem to have been the standard closure technique. Global commerce fell dramatically with the demise of the Roman empire. Between 500 and 1500 cork farmers from the Iberian Peninsula fought for their livelihoods, and cork slowly faded out. Cork resurfaced in the 17th century, and for over four centuries, practically every bottle of wine has been sealed with one. Alternative alternatives started to develop in the 1970s, and the cork monopoly seemed to be in jeopardy. A chemical molecule called TCA, sometimes known as cork taint, was the source of the attack, among other things. Despite the increasing availability of alternate closures, millions of winemakers throughout the globe refuse to change their minds. In this post, I’ll look at the history of cork in winemaking and its manufacture, flaws, and future prospects.
Cork’s short history
In 1956, 20 bottles of vintage 1789 wine were discovered with corks in them, with the corks in excellent shape and the wine in excellent condition. The Chinese consumed a beverage composed of wine, beer, honey, and other ingredients about 9000 years ago. Around a millennium later, wine was produced in the hilly areas of eastern Turkey and northern Iran. Around 6000 BC, pottery was discovered, making it feasible for humans to preserve and exchange wine. Winemakers quickly discovered that although some air is necessary, it will turn into vinegar if the wine is exposed to it for too long.
Winemaking has been a never-ending battle to keep the wine from turning into vinegar for millennia. Soon after, winemakers devised vessels that could transport wine and preserve it from the elements; the most popular of these were amphoras, which were used for almost 6000 years. The top of the neck of early amphoras was reported to be sealed with a glob of wet clay.
Egypt was the epicenter of winemaking about 3000 BC; having originally imported wine, they quickly planted their own vines and advanced the crude skill to unprecedented heights. During the Egyptian golden ages, winemaking was rather complex by ancient standards, about 1500 BC. Organic materials like as leaves and reeds were put into the amphora’s necks, a piece of pottery sat on top, and clay was coated to make a sealed container, according to frescoes found in graves.
Around 800 BC, the Greek city-states rose to prominence as great political powers, bringing products and practices of innovation with them. A number of Greek intellectuals left comprehensive descriptions of developments in viticulture, particularly disease management, throughout the Greek empire. Scholars also described how cork trees were collected for various reasons, including bungs for barrels.
From the fifth century BC through the fourth century AD, corks were discovered in Roman shipwrecks. Despite not being the most popular closure, cork was employed to seal containers on amphoras going back to 500 BC. These corks were different from corks today in that they were sealed with resin rather than perforated plugs that make a tight seal. Even as corks became increasingly popular, archaeologists discovered evidence of resin sealing in a number of amphorae unearthed across the world.
Like many of their inventions, Corks went out of favor with the collapse of the Roman empire as Europe entered the Dark Ages. Cork farmers struggled to find clients for their products as trade shrank substantially. With the downturn in commerce came to a shift in the governmental rule: the Moors were banned from consuming wine, and viticulture did not follow them wherever they went. For another seven centuries, the Moors were not ousted from these regions. Many alternative strategies were used to prevent oxidation problems for over a millennium when wine was not corked. These ideas included pouring a little quantity of olive oil on top of the wine to function as an oxidation barrier and using thread to hold stoppers in place.
While cork was initially transported to England in the 1300s, it was not employed as a wine stopper until the 1500s. The wine was usually carried in barrels and served to customers in decanters in the 1600s. On the other hand, Kenelm Digby created a bottle-making process in 1632 that allowed for the production of sturdy and affordable glass containers. The blower’s unique lung capacity primarily governed the size of early bottles. Because a corkscrew had not yet been created, corks were inserted in the top of the bottle and left hanging out at the time.