I must be honest. My first experience with a plastic cork was not a good one. It involved a bright, swirly neon-yellow plug that was stuffed into a bottle of Chardonnay.
I was tasked with opening this bottle at a party. The corkscrew went into it, but then slipped out as soon as I tried to lever it free. The sides of the plastic cork were firmly stuck to the walls of the bottle’s neck, and our poor corkscrew could not get a firm enough grasp to break the cork away from its death grip. We tried digging it out with a small knife. We tried different corkscrews. We tried swearing at it. A lot.
Eventually we pushed the cork in and poured the wine to whomever hadn’t already given up and moved on to other drinks.
Later I avoided purchasing that (or any other) wine from that producer, and I cringed whenever I peeled back the foil to reveal a plastic cork. “Oh no, here we go again.” In my mind, plastic corks clearly meant cheap wine. I wanted quality wines, and quality wines were meant for aging, so if a wine had a plastic cork, I wasn’t interested in keeping it around.
I couldn’t have been the only person to have had a bad experience with those hard plastic corks—no doubt wine producers noticed problems as well. But here’s what happens when something isn’t quite right with a particular technology: Somebody figures out a way to make it better. A lot better, in this case. This is the wine that did it:
Eberle Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Released in 2007, the Eberle Cabernet was made from 30-year-old vines and sealed with an earlier generation of Nomacorc’s engineered corks. Winemaker Ben Mayo was on hand to pour it as part of a special tasting.
The color struck me first. It was beautifully deep crimson red but with a lighter brick red rim around the outside. It was a cold February day in Raleigh, NC, and the sky was completely white, casting a beautiful glow through the windows that made the wine’s color stand out.
There were no oxidized notes or overly dried fruit aromas on the nose, and the palate was full of complex flavors. But what I remember the most was the texture. It had tannins (I love tannins) and acidity (I love acidity) and both were amazingly smooth and beautifully balanced. This was a beautifully aged, superb quality wine.
Tasting a decade-old California Cabernet and finding out that it’s awesome is hardly news. But tasting an awesome wine at that age that’s sealed with a plastic cork is news. I was amazed.
Mr. Mayo, clearly confident with his choice of closures for his wines, had barely even sniffed it to check its quality before pouring. This kind of confidence is not common among winemakers and wine service staff, who must be constantly on the lookout for faulted bottles. It would be liberating to remove that almost paranoid aspect of the wine service industry. Imagine serving wines without having to check them first!
We are clearly on that path with Nomacorc’s engineered corks. I know which wineries use them locally and those are the wines I go to when I need a no-fail bottle. Plus, they’re easy to open. No swearing needed!