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Food and Wine

Pop the Cork – or Snap the Cap!

Posted by Bruce Pincus on 07/15 at 08:09 AM

We all know the scene: that special bottle of wine comes out of the cellar for everyone to see.  The bottle is presented and the label is scrutinized.  The smiles appear on all the faces confirming the expectation is that it will be a delicious wine.  Anticipation of opening the bottle mounts and then you hear that all familiar sound … SNAP!  The screw cap has been twisted and the wine is ready to be poured.

Hey – wait a minute!  Hold on there! Where’s the “pop” of the cork?  You mean this is a screw cap wine?  C’mon, it can’t be any good – it’s a screw cap. 

… Au contraire!

Technically speaking, the Stelvin-type closure, commonly known as the screw cap, is the best performing closure for wine.  It may not have the romance of the cork nor add to the opening ceremony and presentation of the bottle, but it is simply the better performer – eliminating the problems that are normally associated with cork – the most common being TCA, or cork taint. 

There have been numerous studies conducted over the years, which proves the point. And at the center of almost every discussion are the issues of perception, ceremony, and the outright consternation of paying $50, $75, $100 or more for a bottle wine and having it come with a screw cap.  Yet there is no valid challenge to the data indicating that a screw cap provides the better closure.

Indeed, recently published in Wine Spectator was a result of a 10-year study conducted by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI).  14 different closures were used on thousands of bottles of the same wine – 1999 Clare Semillon - including various corks, synthetic corks and screw caps.  The screw cap turned out to be the most reliable and superior closure, resulting in a classic aged Semillon that was “wonderful to drink.” Those bottles with natural and synthetic corks had huge variations in degrees of oxidation affecting their color and freshness, and that’s excluding those corks that simply failed.

Today, use of the screw cap is catching on among some of the world’s highly regarded wineries.  Annually, more than 15 million bottles of quality wines from Switzerland come with screw caps.  Well-respected producers from New Zealand and Australia are using more screw caps. They’re even being used in France! In the United States, Bonny Doon has stopped using cork altogether.  Plumpjack winery started bottling 50 percent of their reserve wines in screw caps in 1997, and ten years later, in 2007, compared them side-by-side with those sealed in cork.  The result: most of the invited wine writers could not tell the difference. 

Surprised?  Don’t be.  Think about it: 

Screw caps are here to stay and their adoption in the wine marketplace continues to increase every year.  While I still like tradition – and the pop of the cork – the evidence has taught me to move beyond the old stereotype for the screw cap that it is only for inferior and less expensive skid-road wines.

So the next time you visit your local Wine & Spirits store, take a good look at the higher-end specialty and luxury wines and you’ll see more and more of them with screw caps.  You may even find that your favorite producer is starting to use them.

Remember, it’s the wine inside we want.  Don’t miss out on the opportunity of enjoying a wonderful wine just because it has a screw cap closure.

Go ahead – SNAP the cap!



Join us on Sunday, September 19, 2010 for the Second Annual WPSU Wine celebration. This tasting will feature a variety of wines from the world’s greatest vineyards, and a selection of unique and premium wines, wine accessories and art will be offered in both live and silent auctions throughout the afternoon.

{name} Author: Bruce Pincus
Bio: Bruce is a dedicated wine enthusiast who grew up in California just south of the Napa Valley and has been tasting and collecting wines from the world’s greatest regions for more than 18 years. As a student of fine wines, Bruce has developed a keen knowledge of marquee and boutique California cabernet sauvignon wines, and French Rhône Valley wines. Bruce is WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) certified and has founded recognized elite educational wine tasting groups in both California and Pennsylvania. For a second year in a row, Bruce is again bringing his contagious passion for all things wine related to WPSU in the role of Wine Coordinator for the 2nd Annual WPSU Wine Celebration on September 19, 2010 at the Penn Stater. Bruce and his wife Susanne, along with their 2 children, live in State College, Pennsylvania.


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
07/28 at 10:37 AM

Great article!  I think screwcaps beat corks any day—no worries about “corky” or moldy flavor, or the cork breaking apart when you open the bottle.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
07/28 at 09:49 PM

Very informative words, which are much appreciated in the Thorsen household;  The preconception about the screw-cap is banished;  The cork is demystified!
We have discussed whether the screw-cap inferred “lesser” quality a few times.  Never again!  Thank you – I will share this with Rebecca.

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