Debate debate debate! ‘screwcaps don’t keep the wine safe’…’plorks (synthetic corks) are for cheap wine’…’corks are traditional’… ‘screwcaps are modern and experimental’… ‘cork means faulty wine’…’screwcaps don’t look expensive!’…..and on and on it goes!
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the way a wine bottle is sealed, perhaps because they have heard something from a friend, or have made their own conclusions from using varying wine closures. There are two basic categories of wine closure: cork from the cork oak tree (Quercus suber) and ‘Stelvin’ screwcaps or synthetic corks made from all manner of different materials (I call them plorks). They each have advantages and disadvantages and I’m going to tell you what those are…
Cork is traditional.
Good for the environment.
It is also important to the aging of a wine inside a bottle; through ‘breathing’ tiny amounts of oxygen can pass through the porous cork over time, and are important to the aging process of quality wine.
If you’re vain, the bottle looks more expensive at dinner parties….
‘Cork taint’. The occasional faulty bottle because of chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole found in cork bark. Statistically 1 in 12 bottles sealed with a cork can be affected by cork taint, although this varies depending on where the producer sources their cork. Some producers avoid cork taint altogether by sourcing quality cork.
Cork can often be in short supply as cork forests are shrinking due to human industrialisation. This results in cork shortage (i.e. reliable source of cork closures and can be expensive as a result, driving up cost of the bottle slightly).
Screwcaps and Synthetic cork advantages:
Easy to open…bottles sealed with a screwcap do not require a bottle opener (although synthetic corks do).
Keeps the wine safe from cork taint/corked wine, as no cork is involved in either screwcap or synthetic cork.
These two types of closure keep the wine PERFECTLY SAFE. There is no difference in quality between how well a screwcap/synthetic cork seals a bottle against a real cork when it comes to short term storage.
Screwcaps and Synthetic cork disadvantages:
A screw cap or a synthetic cork is unable to let the wine ‘breath’ like a cork does, because they completely seal a bottle, therefore no one knows how well a quality wine will age when sealed with a screw cap. This only applies to high quality wines as not all wines are made to be aged. On a ready-to-drink wine this doesn’t make a difference.
If you’re vain, the bottle looks cheaper at dinner parties….
At the end of the day:
Both corks and synthetic corks have advantages and disadvantages and neither is better nor worse. Some people simply prefer the aesthetics of one or the other; I prefer a great bottle of wine, therefore, I do not care how it is sealed. In this day and age, a screwcap does not mean you are drinking a bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill……
So, where do you stand on the cork versus screw cap debate? Perhaps, like several of the recent dinner guests around my kitchen table, you really don’t care, as long as the wines taste good and the wine keeps flowing!
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