The “pop” of opening a champagne bottle marks a true celebration. But looking at the famous mushroom shape of a champagne cork makes you wonder, how are corks put in champagne bottles?
Initially, champagne corks are straight and cylindrical like your typical wine cork. But to fit into the neck of the bottle, they are compressed in size. Once half of the cork is inside the bottle, the cork expands to create a tight seal to keep the content and fizz intact.
This is only the very basics of champagne corking. Various champagne houses use different machines and techniques to get this process done.
A Quick History of Champagne Corks
Champagne is the ultimate celebratory drink. No matter what or who you’re celebrating, a celebration isn’t complete without hearing the “pop” of a bottle of champagne being opened. That pop of the champagne bottle can also be the perfect signal of honoring whatever it is you are there to celebrate.
You know and love champagne but do you have any idea about its history that made the champagne you know and love today, specifically the corks used to seal all the carbon dioxide bubbles inside the bottle?
The inventor of the champagne cork remains a mystery to this day. Some champagne legend points to the Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Perignon, as the inventor of this tiny device. The Dom Perignon Chmapgane was named after him. Some say he also invented the traditional method of sparkling wine production.
However, this legend has long been debunked. And to this day, no one has offered an alternative as to who did invent the champagne cork.
Nonetheless, champagne cork has a history that dates back to the 17th century.
During this time, winemakers would traditionally use wooden plugs wrapped in hemp and then soaked in tallow as a wine stopper to prevent the contents of the bottle from spilling. It’s not the most effective bottle cap method but it gets the job done.
By the 18th century, many improvements to the cork had been made. Winemakers would start using corks and squeeze them into the bottle by hand. Then, they use twines as a cork stopper to keep them in place and prevent them from popping out prematurely.
As one can imagine, this is not a very safe method. So workers would wear masks made of wire and gauze to protect themselves from accidentally popping champagne corks.
Come the 20th century, the process of making champagne corks and bottling champagne has modernized with the help of machines. This has helped transform this once-dangerous procedure into a safe step in the wine-making process.
The Champagne Cork Design
The champagne cork has seen a tremendous amount of improvements over the years to what we know of it today.
Cork is made from the bark of the Quercus Suber or cork oak tree. Most corks have a typical diameter of 31mm or 1.2 inches and a length of 48mm or 1.9 inches.
Corks used for champagne and other types of sparkling wines have three sections called agglomerated corks.
The top or main part of the cork is made of agglomerated cork granules and is called the manche. The bottom part of the cork is called the miroir (mirror) and is composed of two natural cork disks stacked and held together by glue. This bottom part is in contact with the contents of the bottle.
The cork has minuscule pores to allow for very little oxygen inside the bottle.
How Are Champagne Bottles Corked: How Does a Champagne Cork Get in the Champagne Bottle?
One thing champagne corks are known for is its distinguishable mushroom shape. But how does it get that shape exactly? It all comes down to how the cork gets in the bottle in the first place.
Initially, champagne corks are straight cylindrical shapes before getting inside the bottle, just like the corks in regular wine bottles. But somewhere along its life inside the bottle, the shape changes to the mushroom shape everyone is familiar with.
Champagne corks are elastic and malleable. To be inserted into the bottle neck, champagne corks are compressed to a diameter of about 18mm to fit. Once inserted, the cork will continue to expand to create a seal around the bottle, preventing liquid spill and carbonation escape.
Then, just like in old times, the cork is held in place using a wire cage called a muselet.
And when a bottle of champagne is popped open, you will see the famous mushroom shape. Once out, it will continue to expand. This is why old champagne corks tend to lose their shape more than when they first popped out.
Popping open a champagne is the perfect way to kick off or end a celebration. Champagne is known for its mushroom-shaped cork. But how are corks put in champagne bottles, exactly?
Champagne corks start out as straight cylindrical shapes, like most wine corks. To fit into the neck of the bottle, they are compressed down and then put into the bottle. Once inserted, the cork will continue to expand to seal in the content and bubbles.
The process of champagne corking has been mechanized throughout the years. While champagne houses have their processes, this is the most basic of corking.