By Matt Villard
Here’s the Deal
A large and ongoing debate in the wine industry is what to close the bottle with. Corks vs Screwcaps is a discussion that fires up everyone from the winemaker, to the marketing and sales personnel, to the retailers, all the way to the final consumer. Every one of them has an opinion, some backed by science and the others backed by emotion.
Corks have been used to seal bottles for hundreds of years. They are the gold standard of tradition in the world of wine. Corks breathe well to age the wine and they make a beautiful and romantic “pop” when you open them. However, corks are fraught with problems. The biggest one from my point of view is taint, though uncommon it does happen. Cork taint is caused most often by TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) and results in the wine smelling like cork, cardboard or wet paper. When you overhear someone sending back a bottle of wine, it’s usually due to the wine being “corked.” Other issues include storage issues (corks must remain in contact with wine), crumbling when you try to open it or wine leaking up the side of the cork.
Screwcap closures are relatively new to the industry and people tend to be skeptical of change. Screwcaps never have taint, they can be stored in any position, they are easy to open and reseal and leakage appears almost immediately rather than after trying to age that wine to perfection. However, they lack the romanticism of a cork. The ability to age a wine for a truly long time is still being tested, but the screwcap industry is working to improve options for wineries.
Let’s Be Practical
So, I prefer screwcap closures. They’re reliable, they’re easy and above all they work. However, on my own wines I use corks for more expensive bottles and screwcaps for my less expensive, because the vast majority of consumers out there have such a negative opinion of screwcaps. The market still lies heavily on the cork side, but if you see an expensive bottle of wine closed with a screwcap, don’t be afraid to give it a try.