Just when you thought that mankind could go no further, four years of research has given birth to a new apex in cork innovation. Please say hello to your newest wine-stopper, the Helix cork.
The product of a collaboration beween the industrious lushes at cork manufacturer Amorim and those at bottle-making company O-I, the new threaded, resealable design (and matching threaded bottle neck) is aimed at the "popular premium" wine market, which includes bottles that retail for between $8-$15, roughly. And while four years of research may seem a tad excessive, much of that time was spent waiting... and waiting... and waiting some more, allowing them to see whether or not the new cork had any effect on taste, aroma or colour. (Spoiler: it didn't.)
This kind of testing was necessary because the agglomerated type of cork used in the Helix is atypical of wine manufacturing. Since cork is cellular in nature, the presence of open spaces in a common, straight cork stopper is ideal — it allows the wine to fill those spaces, expand the cork and form a tight seal. However, agglomerated cork is more granular, meaning fewer open spaces and less room for expansion. This would be a problem with a normal stopper, but the threaded design of the Helix creates its own tight seal, meaning oxygen can't escape on the sides while the density of the stopper prevents oxygen from escaping through the cork itself.
And its resealability is a major plus in the eyes of consumers, who want the convenience of a resealable container but still prefer cork to other methods of wine stoppering such as screw tops. According to Erik Bouts, O-I Europe president:
Cork is still by far the preferred stopper. Our research has found that at least 80% of consumers prefer the cork and glass combination for their wine. It has the highest-quality image in the market and now we have made it easier to use. And it is still the most sustainable option.
The Helix cork is being unveiled at Vinexpo in Bordeaux today, although its creators say it may still be two years before we start seeing it on shelves. So if you must have your fancy corks, until the day comes that we can leave the cork screws behind and securely reseal wine with ease, it seems your best option is to just finish the bottle. No one said being classy came easy. [Cork.pt, The Drinks Business]