The cork, silent spectator of our toasts

Annually, in March, starts the cork’s extraction from the bark of the cork oak. It’s a very ancient ritual, that every year continues until July and August and which involves different Mediterranean Countries, our loved Sardinia and Sicily islands among them.

A precious material that comes from a very long and patient activity, marked by the perfect rhythms of Nature. The first extraction is done when the plant reached 25-30 years old, but the “gentle cork”, the finest kind, the one that we handle each time we open a sparkling bottle, derives from an even longer waiting: it will take another decade before the second extraction, when the cork will be used to create the lid.

But why do we use the cork in particular? Among all its qualities, first and foremost it’s a natural product, that if well worked, can preserve the necessary features for the perfect maintenance of the wine. Moreover, it’s greatly flexible and elastic, which is the reason why it can perfectly adhere to the bottle, ensuring a hermetic closure and a strong resistance to the internal pressure. It is able to regulate the exchanges with the external environment, allowing the wine to breathe without being oxidized; lastly, it’s an extremely resistant, durable, odourless and tasteless, non-toxic material. We can attribute to it the single small, great flaw, probably the most dreaded by wine lovers, which is the well-known “cork taint”. A very unwelcome surprise when we open the bottle, recognisable from a smell of mould and humid cellar, that will prevail over all the other lovely hints of fruits and flowers. On the palate, the wine will be bitter and very little pleasant.

That might depend, in fact, to the presence of a fungus (Armillaria mellea) in the cork, that if in contact with chlorine compounds during the production cycle, could lead to the formation of a molecule (Trichloroanisole) responsible for these sensations.

A risk that, however, one can, and should take, given the fact that to the present day it’s the best solution to preserve our Valdobbiadene DOCG, and not only.