Liquid engineering

THE only thing that should really matter to wine fans is the quality and value of the wine in the glass. But I’m swerving a little off-piste in my column this week to look at one aspect of the bigger picture — closure (it’s in today’s snazzy new-look Irish Examiner Weekend or click here to see it online). Specifically, I’m looking at the Zork which joins the screwcap and the plastic corq as the latest alternative closure to the traditional cork.

Zork diagram

The inspiration for this focus is the first wine bottled under Zork that’s widely available in Ireland. Namely, Ocean’s Edge Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc (at an introductory price of €9.99  at Tesco). It’s a cracking party fizz, a simple, light bubbly with saucy lemony  acidity. That price is remarkably low, given the €4+ excise duty on  all bubbly. However it’s important to point out that Ocean’s Edge isn’t like the sparkling  wines that I’d generally recommend here: Instead of the classic secondary bottle fermentation used in Cavas and Champagnes and adopted more recently by serious winemakers worldwide, this one is simply carbonated. Like running your vin blanc through the SodaStream.

I have mixed feelings about the Zork establishing its bridgehead in Ireland on this particular wine, because I think it may inadvertently cause drinkers to associate that closure with mere cheapness. Because in fact the Zork may spell a new beginning. For the first time, here’s a reliable synthetic closure that can be used for high-pressure sparkling wines. (Unlike some frizzantes and proseccos which can be bottled under regular stoppers, the dissolved CO2 in an unopened bottle of ‘proper’ bubbly amounts to several atmospheres of pressure, hence the cork and wire cage assembly we’re used to, and it’s  why you won’t see screwcaps  on bubbly).
The Zork is quite an ingenious little device, and is the only wine stopper I’ve encountered that seals the bottle both inside and outside the neck. (In the argot of fitters and engineers, these fittings are ‘male’ and ‘female’ respectively, making the Zork the first hermaphrodite wine stopper).

As Jennifer Aniston might say, here comes the science bit. You start by tearing off the tamper-proof spiral strip. Below that lies the two-part business end of the Zork: the visible part which covers the top of the neck, and a pop-up button in the centre which seals the bottle from the inside. It reminds me of the connector fittings you’ll find on garden hose systems such as the Hozelock.
The Zork is suitable for still wines of course, and the stellar d’Arenberg is among the wineries to try it out on theirs. But it’s got two unique advantages when it comes to sparkling wines. First, unlike any synthetic closure, it can cope with the immense pressures in a sparkling  wine. And better again, you can reseal the bottle at the pop of a button, and the fizz will be sustained for when you return to the bottle for further study on the morrow — that’s something you can’t do with any other closure, traditional or synthetic. ♦

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