My Ohio wine friend Jim Sperk just shared this amazing story about why we find a foil capsule on each wine bottle. I had no idea. Did you?
The History of the Foil Capsule
Did you ever wonder about the foil capsule that covers the cork in a wine bottle? While most people think that the capsule is purely decorative, historically it was placed there for a purpose. Cork moths are usually found in dark woodland areas where they feast on dead trees. In early wine cellars, cork moths would lay eggs not only on cork but also on moist wine casks in dark cellars. The caterpillars of this moth species are called cork worms. The worms would bore into the wine corks, causing the wine to leak or taste musty.
Rats in cellars were also known to gnaw on corks destroying the wine. The solution was to cover the cork with a lead capsule. Lead was common and easy to form in those early days.
Lead in My Wine?
Yes, lead. In the olden days, they didn’t know that lead was poisonous or that traces of it could enter the wine glass during pouring. In 1996, the United States and Europe ‘outlawed’ lead in many applications.
What Are Wineries Using Today?
Plastic, tin, or aluminum capsules are used now.
The good news is that wineries today are extremely clean and devoid of rats and cork worms.
Plus, today’s wine corks are improved, and composite closures are more common. Some young California winemakers are even eliminating capsules, believing they are no longer relevant. They state capsule materials come from the earth, are costly, and end up in landfills, which is bad for the environment. While these young winemakers primarily are making ‘organic’ wines, you may find bottles of premium wines without capsules in wine shops in the near future.
What if I Have Old Wines that No Longer Have a Foil Capsule?
If you have some oldie moldy wines that have lost their foil capsules, you don’t need to worry about the cork being exposed. The foil is now just a beautiful decoration.
* Jim Sperk is an award-winning amateur winemaker and member of several local and national wine clubs. He has conducted competitions for commercial and amateur wines and devoted the past ten years to wine education through live and online presentations and written media.
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
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Thanks for sharing the foil capsule story. I enjoy these obscure wine history stories.
I do too. Thank you so much for sharing this one.
From what I remember about wine bottles foil caps, the tradition began because of the many rats which inhabited the wine cellars of Europe. The rats would crew through the wax seals and the corks to get at the wine. To help eliminate the rats, lead foil was used to protect the cork end of the bottle, thus inhibiting the rats from getting at the precious wine and killing the rats with lead poison. Today it is solely for looks and marketing. Most cheaper wines use plastic and the higher end wines probably do not reside in rat infested wine cellars.
You are so right!
Looking forward to your talk to our wine club, Northern Ohio Wine Guild, Jim Sperk mentioned you in our news letter.
I haven’t heard about that. I’ll need to talk to Jim. Cheers!