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What are the Advantages of Plastic Wine Corks?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Currently, plastic wine corks are being used to cork wine with greater regularity. Those who use them point to several advantages that plastic has over cork harvested from trees. The most frequent reasons given are that plastic is not vulnerable to cork taint, and thus better protects wine. As well, some manufacturers cite a shortage of available cork for use.

The first reason to use plastic wine corks is not disputed. Plastic corks are not subject to cork taint. They are also easier to get out of a wine bottle since they do not disintegrate. However, most wine experts feel that wine corked with plastic does not age as well as that with natural corks. Plastic allows for less air exchange and thus wine does not get the benefit of maturation.

Most wine experts feel that wine with plastic wine corks is fine as long as one plans to consume the wine quickly. However, they still feel regular cork should be used for wines one plans to store. Unfortunately, stored wines are much more subject to cork taint, as supporters of plastic quickly point out. Since the taint may not be visible, one may store wines that are no good.

To use plastic wine corks to address cork tree shortage is another debatable point. Currently, cork trees in the forests of Portugal would provide enough cork for 100 years of wine manufacturing. A cork tree is not killed when cork is harvested, making it an environmentally friendly process.

Plastic corks are recyclable. However, many fear that greater reliance on plastic might make cork trees yet another victim of society’s advancements. Cork trees may lose their purpose and thus their lives if all wine manufacturers switch to other corking methods. On the other hand, over-dependence on harvested corks could create an ultimate deficit in cork supply if more trees are not planted.

It would seem the happy medium might be to use plastic wine corks for wines meant to be purchased and consumed immediately. Manufacturers of wine then might choose cork from cork trees for wines meant to be stored a few years before drinking. This does not entirely eliminate worries about cork taint, but this problem tends to occur in a very small percentage of stored wines, and is thus likely to only pose the occasional problem.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon989186 — On Feb 23, 2015

But you don't say how to recycle plastic wine corks? Not in municipal recycling: too small and unidentified plastic resin. They will likely not be recycled, and may jam up the machinery.

By anon248840 — On Feb 18, 2012

No plastic for me please. Solvents and plastics together are not good for the human body.

By anon121974 — On Oct 26, 2010

i would propose to remove all downsides to either usage of plastic corks for wines meant for short storage, and traditional corks with a thin plastic coating to prevent cork tainting on wines meant for aging.

Of course, coating a cork with plastic may not be viable business-wise.

I, for one, find traditional corks hard to not rip to pieces upon corking.

By anon115169 — On Sep 30, 2010

My homemade elderberry and concord wines after a couple years of aging, taste as great with plastic as natural cork. Bottle orientation is a non-issue. The screw hole heals pretty well, so I reuse! Don't try that with cork.

By anon73472 — On Mar 27, 2010

Purchase a Le Creuset Screwpull corkscrew, mine just broke but I will be buying another asap.

Plastic corks no problem with screwpull.

By anon73471 — On Mar 27, 2010

Just bought a new corkscrew to replace a broken screw pull.

It's almost impossible to remove a plastic cork with the new corkscrew.

Plastic corks are a pain. In future I will not purchase wine which is plastic corked.

By loquacious — On Mar 09, 2010

I am 67 and no longer a strong man. It's sort of dangerous to try to get the corkscrew started in the plastic cork; it resists a lot. Then twisting it in is a lot more effort than with natural cork.

When it was time to re-cork, it was a struggle, since no end seems the obvious part to place against the bottle neck.

Please don't let the baloney from the plastic cork criminals fool you. This garbage is a pain in the neck, and I plan to refuse and return, if necessary -- any plastic corked bottles.

By zosko — On Feb 17, 2009

how to make plastic corks?

By anon23008 — On Dec 14, 2008

I bought a bottle of wine closed with a plastic cork, there was a small medallion-type of logo printed on the cork, i think it said NK. I emailed the winery to ask details about the use of plastic cork and they had so much information available, such as certifications and stuff, to demonstrate the safety of plastic corks. Apparently the major plastic cork companies invest a lot of money in research and development and plastic corks are absolutely safe. But then the cheaper plastic corks coming from small producers can be really unsafe. I found out that screw caps are much worse in terms of carbon emission and recycling. I think it is up to us consumers to want to find the truth.

By anon22819 — On Dec 10, 2008

Plastic wine corks are unacceptable.........

I can't tell you how many corkscrews I've trashed (up to the $50 Rabbit) because these tough old bastards refuse to be uncorked...........creating waste in a landfill near me...and endless frustration to me.

Dare we return to bad, twist off wine bottles? Or beer or other liquor? I think so....market share be damned!

By anon12426 — On May 06, 2008

NPA likely stands for Newpak Australia, a major distributor of natural and alternative closures for wine, including nomacorc products which are recyclable with other low denisty polyethylene (LDPE) packaging.

By Digiman508 — On Mar 02, 2008

As razzberry points out there are established recycling system identification marks - the numbered triangle - but they do not appear on many of the plastic items I use and then have to dispose of. I live in the UK and my Local Authority specifically request I put my ( plastic ) milk, liquid detergent, bleach, shower gel, shampoo "bottles" in my recycle bin. I can't remember seeing the triangle ID on any of these. I do see the triangle on food product trays. My conclusion is that the triangle system is not widely used at all and we need to find an additional way to sort our plastics for recycling.

I have been looking for a table that shows which type of plastic is used for which purpose and if it can be recycled. As plastics tend to have their proper names shortened could we not have a list of agreed abbreviations such as the well known PVC which can be printed or embossed during manufacture.

I have a plastic cork from an Australian wine which is printed with three initials - NPA - which I Googled and ended up here. Does anyone know of such a Table and how I can get it?

By razzberry — On Aug 16, 2007

While it may be true that plastic wine corks are technically recyclable, they really are not recyclable. There is no program for recycling them. All of the recycle programs rely on the "numbered triangle." Wine "plastics" do not have this feature. So it's just more crap that will be dumped in a landfill somewhere (but not in my back yard). And I have seen no studies that show that the use of plastic corks is risk free. What happens to the plastcizers that are used in their manufacture. I, for one, favor a listing somewhere that identifies all the wineries that use the stuff so that I can avoid buying wines with plastic "corks." Screw tops are easy to identify, but the seal on a wine bottle hides the corking method. How does one return a plastic "corked" bottle of wine??

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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