Thursday, 22 January 2009

Port Cork

Part three of the everyday household objects. Today’s image comes in the form of a cork from a rather nice bottle of port.
As late as the mid 1600s, French vintners did not use cork stoppers, using oil-soaked rags stuffed into the necks of bottles instead.

Natural cork closures are used for about 80% of the 20 billion bottles of wine produced each year. After a decline in use as wine-stoppers due to the increase in the use of cheaper synthetic alternatives, cork wine-stoppers are making a comeback and currently represent approximately 60% of wine-stoppers today.

Corks used as bottle stoppers can sometimes become dry and or shrink due to compression around the mouth of the bottle. This causes them not to form a tight seal. This problem can be easily solved by wetting the cork and then heating it. This causes cells to expand and the cork goes from dry and hard to moisturized and elastic, thus making much more suitable for a bottle stopper.

Cork demand has increased due to more wine being sealed with cork rather than being sold in bulk. Since a tree's bark can only be harvested six to nine years hence, supply is highly inelastic. Top quality corks are expensive, and no matter what the cost, have the risk of containing TCA Cork taint and are susceptible to random oxidation due to their mechanical variability.

Many brands have switched to alternative wine closures such as synthetic plastic stoppers, screwcaps, or other closures. Because synthetic stoppers do not dry out and shrink, wine bottles with synthetic corks do not have to be stored on their sides to prevent oxidizing. Screwcaps are often seen as a cheap alternative destined only for the cheapest low class wines out there, however this idea is absolutely false. Screwtops offer a TCA free seal without cutting out oxygen needed for aging. Cork contamination with foul-smelling and tasting trichloroanisole (TCA) is one of the primary causes of cork taint in wine. However, in recent years major cork producers (Amorim, Cork Supply Group and Oeneo) have developed methods that remove most, but not all TCA from natural wine corks. Natural cork stoppers are important because they allow oxygen to interact with wine for proper aging, and are best suited for bold red wines purchased with the intent to age. When aging is not crucial in wines destined to be consumed early like Rieslings or Chardonnays, a screwtop is more than qualified to seal the wine.

A study made public in December 2008 by PricewaterhouseCoopers, commissioned by cork manufacturer Amorim, concluded that cork is the most environmentally responsible stopper, in a one-year life cycle analysis comparison with the plastic stoppers and aluminium screwcaps.

On top of this, cork has been used for many other things over time, in musical instruments, particularly woodwind instruments, where it is used to fasten together segments of the instrument, making the seams airtight. Conducting baton handles are also often made out of cork. Cork can be used as bricks for the outer walls of houses, as in Portugal's pavilion at Expo 2000.On November 28, 2007, the Portuguese national postal service CTT issued the world's first postage stamp made of cork, and cork is used as the core of a baseball. Finally, cork has been used in rocket technology due to its fire resistance.

Source: Wikipedia

Photograph details: Nikon D40. Focal length 48 mm, ISO-320, exp: 1/60 sec. F-stop f/5.6

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  1. I thought I left a comment earlier - but I guess not. What I said then was that I love how you give background on all the items you photograph! Very cool

  2. I didn't have a request for a comment to be moderated - just this one, Rebecca. I bet you can't guess what I use for it though

  3. I mean, can you guess what I use as the base/background for the images. It's an object most houses, and pretty much all schools/colleges and offices will have

  4. I was thinking it looked like the top of a lap top - but now I don't really know.

  5. No, it's not a laptop. I'm planning on running this series until sunday, so you have until then to guess. If you get it i'll dedicate a post to you :o)

    This, by the way is open to anyone. If you think you know post a comment and let the world know your ideas!

  6. Are all the backgrounds for the objects the same thing?

  7. The objects being photographed are placed on something, then the photo is taken from slightly above - so that the background also forms the stand for the subject. That make sense?

  8. It does - and I'm gonna have to think about it because laptop was my best guess. hmmm .. . . something most houses, schools, colleges, and offices have. I would say table but that's a little too obvious. Hmmmm. . . . let me think on it a little more.

  9. Oh - I did want to let you know that I don't have access to internet over the weekend so it won't be until Monday that I can guess again.

  10. That's ok. Have a good weekend, but don't forget to ponder... :o)


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