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ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Do wineries use a different type of cork for wines that can age a while, like Amarone?

—Stan H., Auburn, Ala.

Dear Stan,

It’s up to individual producers to pick the corks or closures they use. Whether or not you’re a fan of screw caps like I am, you have to appreciate their consistency and ability to avoid leaks, cork-generated TCA and oxidation.

Some corks are better than others, so the Cork Quality Council has created a vocabulary and grading system. According to them, a “Grade A” cork won’t have any holes or pores larger than 2mm, no cracks longer than 18 percent of the length of the cork, none that originate at the end that exceed 11 percent of the cork length, and so on. Meanwhile, a “Grade C” cork may have bigger cracks and channels, including horizontal ones and ones that can get up to 55 percent of a cork’s length. The better the grade, the better the seal they provide.

As your question implies, a wine that’s going to be aged for a long time will ask a little bit more from its cork, and you can keep your fingers crossed that they’re using the best possible material. But even the best cork will suffer if the storage conditions aren’t optimal.

—Dr. Vinny

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