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How Long Does A Wine Cork Last: Different Wine Corks Tested

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Wine corks can be a little unpredictable when opening a vintage bottle of wine. It’s not uncommon for an old cork to be brittle or break in two once the corkscrew starts to enter it. You should know how long a wine cork can last to prevent that from happening.

Wine corks can easily last between 2 and 50 years. That greatly depends on the material the cork is made from. Natural cork can last 50 years because it’s biodegradable. Synthetic corks will last much longer because it’s not biodegradable and cannot become brittle.

How Long Does A Wine Cork Last
How Long Does A Wine Cork Last

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How Long Does A Wine Cork Last?

Not all corks are made equal, and with the progression into farming, becoming more sustainable, and consumers asking for recycled products to be considered to lessen stress on the environment, winemakers have followed suit. Here is how long the following corks will last – 

Natural Cork

Natural cork is made from the cork oak or Quercus Suber and is mainly found in northwest Africa and Europe. It has been used as a wine closure for almost 5000 years. Cork is biodegradable, renewable, and can be recycled. At least 70% of produced wines are sealed using natural cork.

The natural cork is kept moist and supple by being in contact with the wine. Natural cork can last up to 50 years in a cellar with optimal conditions, but most wineries change corks after 20 years.

Airtight Or Hermetic Cork

These airtight corks are used to re-seal sparkling wines to store them after being partially consumed. The Hermetic cork seals the bottle as airtight and close to the original sealing.

Hermetic corks are made either from plastic or silicone and are reusable. Silicone-based hermetic corks can last indefinitely as long as it is washed and kept dry after use. 

Zork Resealable Cork

This ingenious cap is a peel-off and reusable capsule-type lid. It consists of a 100% recyclable food-grade polymer plastic top with a plastic center that seals the bottle airtight after opening. This allows the wine to be kept fresh for several days. The Zork can last at least four to five years. 

Synthetic Cork

Synthetic corks are made from recycled plastic compounds that act and look like natural cork products. A lot of skepticism surrounded the synthetic corks at first because winemakers were worried about oils leaking into the wines, but that has since been disproved.

There are many benefits to using a synthetic product rather than a natural, and one of them is that it cannot break down and degrade as the natural product does.

Synthetic corks can last significantly longer since it’s not biodegradable, but winemakers prefer to use them for wines that age no more than five years.

Tasting Cork

Tasting corks are typically used in a winery that has a tasting room. They look similar to a capped cork and are easy to take out and insert into the bottles. Tasting corks have a lifespan of no more than six months. 

Agglomerate or Grainy Cork

Agglomerate or granulated cork is made from the granules left behind from natural cork production. It is a low-cost cork intended for wines destined for immediate consumption. Because of their low-cost quality, these corks have a lifespan of only two years or less. 

Helix Cork

A helix cork is a wine bottle and cork set designed to be used together. The cork can be screwed out when opened and then re-sealed with ease. The cork has spiral grooves that fit perfectly into the spiral grooves in the bottleneck. 

The helix cork has a shelf life of two years and cannot be used for any sparkling wines.

Capped Cork

The capped cork is a combination of plastic and natural cork with all the added benefits that ease of use brings. These two materials combined make up a 2-part closure system. This type of cork closure is used in higher-end alcohol or as a stopper once a wine has been opened. 

A capped cork closure can last between two to five years or as long as there is alcohol content inside the bottle.

TIP: To learn how to store white wine after opening, check out this article I wrote. To discover if wine fridges are only for storing white wine, check out this complete guide I wrote. And for a complete breakdown of how to store wine long-term in 8 simple steps, you need to read this guide I wrote.

How Long Do Unused Wine Corks Last?

Even though cork is typically a natural product, it can break down and disintegrate if left exposed to elements such as heat, excess moisture, direct light, and cold. The best thing to do if you have a lot of cork to store is the following;

  • Use a resealable bag and place a silicon sachet inside. The corks can last for two years.
  • Use a food vacuum sealer, place the corks inside the bags, and vacuum seal them. The corks can last for decades in a vacuum seal bag as long as the integrity is maintained. 
  • Use a corkador, place a jug with k-meta solution inside, and seal with a lid. The corks can last up to two years in the solution. 

TIP: Once you pop the cork, most wines go bad within a day or so. But a Coravin Wine Preservation system (available for a great price on Amazon) can extend the life of your opened wine for weeks or even months. It is awesome. You should check it out and see if it will fit into your lifestyle.

How Long Can You Cork a Bottle of Wine?

How Long Can You Cork a Bottle of Wine?
How Long Can You Cork a Bottle of Wine?

Typically most wines are not made to be enjoyed only 20 years from now; therefore, the corks used in wines meant for immediate consumption will typically be synthetic or grained, and they last around two to five years. 

Wine bottles that are meant to age for 20 years or more typically have the corks replaced every 20 years. Wine bottles can be corked for up to 50 years or more with the same cork, but the cellar conditions must be perfectly controlled and pristine to avoid mold and other environmental factors from breaking down the corks. 

Some lower-grade corks only last 10 to 15 years and readily become spongy and brittle. Because cork is a biodegradable material, great care must be taken to ensure the longevity of the cork seal. 

TIP: To learn how to store wine long-term, please read this article I wrote. To learn if wine coolers are only good for storing white wine, please check this article out. To learn the dos and don’ts of wine storage, check this article out.

Do Wine Corks Go Bad

Wine corks can go bad if the wines or unused corks are not stored under optimal conditions. Corks that are too porous due to a poor seal can soak up too much of the wine and become soggy. If the wine in the bottle has gone bad while in storage, the cork will typically become crumbly and break when removed.

Once you remove a cork, check the base that was touching the wine. If the cork is heavily stained, it can indicate that the wine was stored incorrectly and has turned bad. It can also be due to the cork not being dense enough to prevent oxygen from entering. 

Corks in fortified wines like port are likely to be more crumbly, and that’s accepted. It should be accepted that corks break down over several decades, and it should not be alarming if a cork on a 40-year-old Bordeaux wine is a little less supple. 

Mold is usually a sign that something is too moist, and some corks can develop mold in time. This should not affect the wine in any way or influence the taste flavor. 

TIP: If you want to know more about touching corks during wine storage visit this article. Another important piece of knowledge about corks is knowing if wine corks can be recycled, find out the complete explanation in this article. And if some of your corks are moldy, read this article and find out if the wine inside the bottle is okay.

Conclusion

Natural cork is still the best and safest way to seal and preserve wine. The storage method and environmental conditions will greatly determine the longevity of each type of cork.

The lifespan of a cork tree is over 200 years, so if cork seals are kept in favorable conditions, they should last well over 200 years themselves.

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