A blog and review on all things Sherry. It is about tasting, enjoyment and learning more about the World’s Finest Wine. "Sherry is a thoroughbred" as Javier Hidalgo rightly puts it. Included are the amazing local Brandies and the remarkably good table wines also produced in the province of Cádiz.
One could be forgiven for not paying much
attention to the seal when in a rush to get that perfectly chilled Fino into
the glass, but actually the seals are more varied and interesting than people
think. Well, at least to geeks like me. But they are largely responsible for
the condition of the wine.
Generally they come in three types: firstly the
tapón corona or stopper cork. (tapón corona could be translated as “crown cap”
but in Spain the word “chapa” often is used to denote beer or soft drink bottle
stoppers). Then there are the cylindrical natural cork and the tapón rosca (or
screwcap), but within these three basic types of stopper there is a multitude
When natural cylindrical cork is cut out of the
bark it leaves a piece of bark full of cork-shaped holes, and it would be a
pity to waste it. The solution is to grind it down to fine or very fine
particles, and using special food-safe flexible and waterproof adhesive, form
it into various cork shapes. This is called agglomerate cork, and it is both
efficient, and cheaper than natural cork and thus very widely used, though it is most suitable for early consumption wines.
It is also easier to detect and remove 2-4-6
Trichloroanisole (TCA) infected granules which could lead to “corked” wine. Diam
is a brand which guarantees no cork taint by using a super-critical carbon
dioxide process which removes all sorts of possible problems. The world's biggest cork producer, Amorim, also offer guaranteed corks using a gas chromatography process known as ND Tech. MA Silva use gas phase spectroscopy for their One by One corks. Then there is "Subr" which guarantees against TCA and apparently uses no adhesive. Occasionally thin
discs of natural cork are stuck onto one or both ends of agglomerate corks,
which both improve the appearance and the seal. These corks are called tapones
técnicos or 1+1 and are smaller, but on the same principle as a Champagne cork.
Agglomerate cork with twin cork discs (1+1)
corks depend on top
quality bark and are used for fine wines which are expected to be stored for a
while. If the bark is good but not perfect however, corchos colmatados (or
filled corks) can be made. These are natural cylindrical corks but have slight imperfections
in them which are filled with a mix of cork dust and adhesive making them
I have only come across one Sherry with a (pink!)
synthetic cylindrical cork made from
different plastic polymers and silicone. Production of these closures emits
huge levels of CO2 into the atmosphere and they still need further testing for
suitability for wine. All the above corks need a corkscrew to remove them,
except those for sparkling wine.
Synthetic "Plastic" cork
Tapones Corona, also known as stopper or T-top
corks, can be removed by hand, can be made from any grade of cork – though
usually agglomerate - and are very common in Sherry bottles. The material is
generally bevelled off at the base for easier entry to the bottleneck, and
sometimes given an “acorn” shape for a tight seal. The crown or upper part can
be made from any material and to any design, the commonest being wood or
plastic, usually adorned with the bodega’s logo. All the above corks need
Stopper cork T top
The tapon de rosca orscrewcap, known in the trade as "ROPP" (rip-off pilfer proof) is widely used for less expensive high
turn-over wines and is pretty efficient. A deft flick or the wrist is (usually)
all that is required to open the bottle and, unlike the above, no capsule is
required – although a different bottle design and bottling equipment are
required to accommodate the screw. Screwcaps are made from aluminium and
provide a good seal, but are not suitable for ageing wines. They are used for the majority of New World wines, but Spain has its own cork industry and only 5% of wines have screwcaps which are seen by consumers as cheap. Amorim have produced a clever "screwcork" called Helix. Not sure about that one.
it is best to keep Sherry bottles upright unless they have a natural
cylindrical cork, in which case it is best to keep them on their sides.