“Screw It!”

Often our exclaim when we get a problematic cork that tries to break on us. Today this isn’t at all irrelevant as screw-top wine is becoming more and more in vogue. The reason for this newfound popularity is thanks to the ever-improving quality of screwcap technology!

How do screwcaps work?

The modern screwcap is made from plastic or metal materials. These types of closures infiltrated the market in the 1960s to combat the varying levels of natural cork qualities available at the time. The innovation was successful and consistent, keeping the wine preserved by not allowing any oxygen transfer from outside of the bottle to affect the wine.

A more affordable option, screwcaps cost a fraction of their natural counterparts. The screwcap is perfect for a refreshing, non-oaked white wine or a zippy, drink-now red like Beaujolais Nouveau! This solution keeps costs low for the consumer. However, due to its association with cheaper, ready to drink options, there is often a stigma. While some producers try to maintain a traditional appeal by keeping the cork around, they often use forms of synthetic corks that offer the same amount of disadvantages as the screwcap. So don’t be fooled; 100 % natural corks are the only way the wine achieves the benefits!

To age, or not to age?

The use of a cork has nearly as many pros as it does cons, let’s take a look. Debatably, one of the first lines of reasoning is tradition. It’s true; cork use dates back to the 15th century. They have been utilized over many centuries because it is a natural renewable resource, coming straight from the tree itself. However, this tradition comes a hefty price point, increases the susceptibility to TCA (cork taint), and is made of natural materials that increase the likelihood of quality inconsistencies.

Despite popular belief, cork closures are not so simple. Several different cork closures can range from $0.05 to over $2.00 apiece. The range in price directly correlates to the overall quality of cork. There are three main categories of corks that each have an expanded variety within their group. Agglomerate cork is made up of cork fragments and a particular type of glue that is pressed and formed into the cork shape. Synthetic closures are made from polyethylene. This plastic material offers minimal air transfer from the inside and outside of the bottle (just like a screwcap). These reduce the risk of cork taint issues and also give the appearance of a cork for aesthetic purposes. However, synthetic corks are not meant for use in age-worthy wines.

The highest quality wines will have traditional cork that made of one piece of full cork, punched straight out of the bark of the cork tree. This type of closure is used for ageable wines and high-end wines because it promotes a small amount of air transfer from the cork to the wine in the bottle, which allows the wine to become more complex over many decades.

The moral of the story?

When you are out buying a bottle of wine and see that it uses the screw top closure, you should drink it right away (in about a year) rather than leaving it in your cellar for ten years. If it has a cork, the wine is most likely high quality and has better aging potential than the screw cap. Cheers!