This debate seems to be never ending and is still a hot topic in the wine trade today. The cork closure system is supported by predominantly the old world wine producers, based more on tradition than any real merit. Screwcap closure is perceived by many of these people to cheapen the product in the bottle. However, new world producers who are more accepting of change and progress generally favour the screwcap.
Old school wine buffs like to have the cork pulled by the waiter at the table with an audible pop, and admittedly that is a pleasant sound. The whole performance loses a little dramatic effect when the waiter simply cracks the seal on a screwcap! But, let’s be honest, this about the wine not the performance and ceremony, and here screwcap wins the argument outright.
There are two main problems caused by cork closure. The first is cork taint which figures suggest can affect as many as 1 in 10 bottles! Have you ever had a bottle where you know the wine’s good because you’ve had it before? But this time there’s something not quite right but you can’t put your finger on it. It tastes a little bitter or the fruit’s not quite showing through. This is cork taint. The wine’s not fully oxidised, just not quite as good as it should be.
The other problem is oxidation. This is caused by air (oxygen) getting into the bottle and reacting with the wine. Corks are normally inserted into bottles under pressure to give as tight a fit as possible. However, it’s virtually impossible to achieve a perfect fit between a cork and a glass bottle. In some cases, when air enters the bottle, the wine oxidises and develops a pungent smell and an unpleasant taste. It’s then undrinkable, unless of course you’re used to the mass produced popular brands, then you probably wouldn’t notice the difference!
Screwcap doesn’t have either of these problems. Virtually every bottle arrives at the table in perfect condition, so it makes perfect sense to seal every wine with a screwcap. In new world wine producing countries this method of closure is accepted, even on the very best wines. And logically it should be used on the best wines as a priority. It’s the general perception of the wine consumers which needs to alter, through education and information. The major problem here is the damage has already been done by the big brands. As screwcap costs less than cork, the major brands have always used screwcap on their cheap and nasty wines, and this has rubbed off and tarnished the image of screwcap, so people automatically associate it with poor wine.
To dispel this association we need more quality wine sealed with screwcaps, but until the consumer has faith that some screwcap wines can be good, the old school producers of good wines will stick to cork – and a percentage of their wines will still turn out to be tainted or oxidised by the time they are consumed! If you have a sensible solution to this conundrum please write in! Personally, I’m delighted to drink screwcap wine. It’s always in top condition and the bottle can be resealed for a couple of days if necessary to keep the wine drinkable for longer.