Spigot - A pin or peg used to stop the vent in a cask.
Bung - A stopper for a cask, keg, or barrel. Middle English bunge.
The first recorded use of cork as a stopper was by the Ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago. Jugs of wine over 1,500 years old have been discovered that were sealed with cork stoppers, the contents of which were still drinkable. In the fifth century BC the Greeks were known to have used corks to seal wine jugs and the Romans also used cork with the addition of pitch for a better seal. Although cork as a seal was known at this time, the most commonly used stopper was gypsum or fired clay sealed with either wax, pitch or a mixture of resins. A coating of olive oil was sometimes applied before sealing the cask in order to stop air coming into contact with the wine. Cork fell into disuse during the medieval period, with cloth, leather, wood and wax being the favoured method of sealing casks. The reappearance of cork in England did not occur until the early 1500s. Shakespeare mentions cork in his play "As You Like It", "I pray thee take thy cork out of thy mouth, that I may drink thy tidings." Worlidge, in his 1676 "Treatise of Cider" discusses the merits of glass 'stopples' in preference to cork.
Today, annual production of corks exceeds 25 billion for use in the wine industry. Continued problems with TCA contamination (2,4,6-trichloranisole), resulting in 'corked' wine, may well see the replacement of natural cork by synthetic cork or by scewcaps in the not too distant future.Return to Main Index
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