Screw Caps Versus Cork
It has been about a decade since the screwcap revolution and cork has never looked to be in a sorrier state. Research has shown that spoilage in wines have decreased with the rise in screwcap usage while cork continues to be an issue for sealing wine in bottle, with greater awareness of wine spoilage and taints.
Why? Cork holds the potential to let in oxygen into a bottle, and though quality cork can keep a wine intact for generations, the poorer quality stuff can allow too much in, effectively spoiling the wine through an exposure to air. Cork also holds the potential to impart TCA, a smelly chemical compound that leads to wines being ‘corked’ – a fault that results in a nasty aroma and stripping of the palate that can be seen in small quantities or to a large degree, depending on contamination.
This forms part of the issue – wine with a cork seal may just seem flat or dull, but as a consumer this might be misconstrued as style rather than a fault, which leads to a bad name for the producer. Screwcaps, however, provide a near perfect seal, which ensures freshness is retained. The counter argument is the wines then sit in stasis, unable to develop and mature as cork allows. Research has shown however that screwcaps do allow maturation, albeit slower than the cork seal equivalents – not a bad thing if you want your wine to really go the distance.
Screwcaps are now very commonplace, and though they don't hold the same romance as the removal of a traditional cork, they are providing greater reliability for wine. Whites wines these days are nearly all under screwcap from Australia and New Zealand, with European wine producers very, very slowly beginning to follow suit. For the meanwhile, don't be afraid of the quality of wine under screw cap, top Australian reds like Grange are under trial in screwcap and many of Australia’s most sought after wines have switched to the convenient, safer closure.