A bottle of wine is the perfect way to relax at the end of a long day or to cap off a nice meal with friends. Sometimes, however, a bottle can be just a bit too much to finish in one sitting. Preserving that last glass in the bottle means knowing which cork option works best for that particular wine or situation. Home bottlers also face the cork dilemma, as considerations such as cost and quality weigh against each other.
The simplest option is purchasing wine with twist-off caps. Though still a minority among wines, these style of bottles are becoming more common. As convenient as screw tops are. However, wine re-sealed this way will not last any longer than any other properly re-corked wine. Though it depends on the style of wine, most wine will start to taste a bit off 3-5 days after first being opened.
Of course, bottles that have traditional natural corks or plastic copies can also be resealed using their original tops in a pinch. The challenge with these styles of stoppers is that once they have been removed from the neck of the bottle initially, they can be quite difficult to push back in. Though sometimes simply flipping the cork and leading with the dry end will be enough, other times the cork will fight any efforts to return it to its original home. One trick in those situations is storing it in the freezer while the wine is served. This can help to shrink it just enough to be able to re-use it when needed.
For frequent wine drinkers who would prefer to avoid the hassle of wresting an old cork into a half-drunk bottle, there are also plenty of attractive, reusable stoppers on the market. Some are simple, with a clear utilitarian goal of simply preserving the wine. These may come in metal or plastic, or a combination of the two. These stoppers are food safe and easy to use and are an excellent option for rescuing an open bottle.
Rubber stoppers are another option for someone looking for a good, tight seal. They can be used either in re-sealing open bottles or in sealing a bottle for the first time, in the case of home brewers or bottlers. Depending on the color and temperature needs, there are EPDM rubber, silicone, or neoprene stoppers to choose from.
There are also hand-crafted stoppers that are beautiful works of art in their own right. Elaborate glass or polished wood options can be found at most wine festivals or stores. These tapered stoppers are an easy option for open bottles and are pleasant to look at, in addition to serving an important function. While somewhat pricier than the more streamlined varieties already mentioned, they can be worth the extra cost for those who enjoy displaying their bottles. These are generally not considered practical for mass bottling, due to the cost, but can be a nice re-usable choice for half-empty bottles.
Home bottlers will have the additional challenge, aside from the ever outstanding material selection, of deciding whether a straight or tapered cork works best. A straight cork is harder to insert into the bottle but creates a much tighter seal. For a bottle that needs to sit for any length of time, this would be the preferred option. Tapered options also exist, and can be perfectly suitable for shorter-term storage. They are easier to insert into the full bottles, but due to their design do not create quite as solid of a seal.
Of course, for a total wine emergency, plastic wrap or aluminum foil can be used as a temporary cork. This will greatly reduce the shelf life of the wine, but can slow down degradation for a few hours until a more suitable alternative can be found or purchased, or until that the last of the bottle can be finished. Ideally, this is a solution used only once, and then better options are acquired for future wine storage needs.
Whether tapered or straight, plastic or natural, a quality cork will keep good wine from becoming bad vinegar. Though wine, especially wine that has been opened, will not last forever, using the right cork to close a bottle will greatly reduce waste. Lucky for home bottlers and drinkers alike, plenty of attractive and affordable options exist.