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What Are Wine Bottle Capsules?

Beautiful custom capsule on a bottle of wine.

Napa Valley’s Anthem Winery uses a beautiful custom capsule on their bottlings.

Here at The California Wine Club, we have been enjoying and learning about wine since 1990. We love sharing the things we’ve learned with our wine club members.

Today we are answering the common question, “What are wine bottle capsules?” Wine capsules are the protective sleeves on the neck of a wine bottle over the cork. Their main purpose is to keep rodents or insects from harming the cork while wine is stored for long periods. They also can serve as a collar to catch drips when pouring, and they decorate the bottle. Some include information such as the winery name or logo or motto. They are not typically used on screw cap wines, but some “twisties” mimic the look of capsules.

Tip: Although removing the top of the capsule with a knife is traditional, sometimes you can pull them right off. You can also put a corkscrew right through them. Easy-Peasy!

A little history

Until the early 1990s, lead was often used to make capsules. However, it was phased out partly due to fears that trace amounts of lead residue could be transferred to the wine during pouring but also because it was winding up in landfills. In 1996, lead was completely banned for capsule use in the U.S. (including on imported bottles). Now capsules are typically made of tin, heat-shrink plastic, PVC, aluminum, or wax.

What’s next?¬†

Although tin has been the most popular type of capsule, the price of tin has been rising, making tin capsules more expensive for wineries. This has led many wineries crafting bottles to sell for $20 or less to switch to plastic. Also, some smaller wineries are switching to plain, undecorated capsules to cut costs. Running a small batch of customized capsules can get pricy.

What About No Capsule?

Four bottles of wine that do not have capsules plus Uncorked Magazine

Some wineries choose to forgo capsules.

The first wine we ever featured in our wine club that did not have a capsule was a Pinot Grigio from Martellotto Wine Productions. Frankly, when we received the wine, we were a little surprised. However, when we asked Winemaker/Owner Greg Martellotto about it, his explanation made perfect sense: Since the wine is intended be enjoyed within 2 years, there is no need to protect the cork. “For young wines, the tin capsule merely becomes an unsustainable decoration that gets tossed in the trash,” says Greg.

We have since seen more and more wineries making the choice for forgo capsules on wines intended to be enjoyed within 8 years of bottling.

We say cheers to their commitment to sustainability!

Want to learn even more about wine? Join our wine club and experience the flavor, the story and the people behind artisan wines.

 

 

2 Responses

  1. Bryan Avila says:

    Great summary!

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