Can screw cap wines be of high quality? Nowadays, a black and white argument between corks and screw caps continues in the world of wine.
Some are convinced that the cork is the only right choice for a fine wine, having been used and tested over centuries.
But as time goes on, more and more people have noticed that there is no absolute good or bad. So how can we choose? Let's take a look!
Traditionally, natural cork is made from the bark of a cork oak tree (Quercus suber). The bark is usually harvested in its entirety by skilled workers. The cork is naturally flexible and has excellent sealing properties.
A cork oak tree forest in Portugal, the world's main producer of corks
Surprisingly, the cork was not born popular. At the beginning of the 17th century, French winemakers were stuffing wine bottles with oil-soaked rags, but the cork had been invented over century before. It was not until the end of the 17th century that the wine producers slowly adopted the cork to guard their precious wine.
Cork gradually has been undoubtedly the first choice of French winemakers to close their wines. This in turn sowed the seeds of stereotypes in the minds of the locals - that they would only buy wine corked.
In 1970, an Australian winery acquired the license to produce Stelcap-vin, a wine closure system first developed by a French company called Le Bouchage Mécanique, and simplified it to Stelvin for their domestic market. This wine cap is the very design of the screw cap.
For New World wine countries, there is no such important historical infuence and consumers there are much more tolerant of new things. For this reason, in countries such as Austrialia and New Zealand, the screw cap has become the preferred choice for many local producers.
Which is the best system?
After some basic information about the two types of closure systems, let's go back to our starting point: cork vs screw cap - who is the best?
The answer is: it depends on your wine! Beacause the choice of closure for wine should be based on the type of wine and its intended use. They both have their own characteristics.
First of all, the cork, a traditional method of sealing, allows the wine to evolve over time. It is because the porous structure of cork oak bark allows it to retain traces of oxygen inside, that will slowly release into the bottle over time and let the wine develop more complexity as it ages. Cork is therefore perfect for what we call "vins de garde" (wines to be stored for years before consumption).
Part of the highly regarded Bin 389 from Penfolds is closed with a screw cap
The main features of the screw cap are its convenience and airtight closure. You can open it without any assistance except a pair of hand with a little muscle movement.
Refreshing and aromatic sauvignon blanc from New-Sealand is closed with screw caps
Contrary to the cork, it does not enable oxygen release inside the bottle, and the aging process is therefore much slower than with corks. It also makes it perfectly suitable to maintain the freshness of the wines that are meant to be enjoyed in their youth.
For cork, TCA contamination is undoubtedly its biggest enemy. This is a molecule called Trichloroanisole, naturally present in cork oak, which has about 5% chance of reacting negatively during the aging process. It can affect the flavor of wine, producing unpleasant odors such as wet cardboard and damp basement, and is irreversible. To solve this problem, several companies, including Amorin, the world's largest cork producer, have developed technologies that effectively eliminate TCA.
In addition, other new materials for corks are increasingly being used. For example, synthetic corks made from petroleum-based plastic and plant-based materials as well as plastic and plant-based stoppers.
Whether it's a cork or a screw cap, the main purpose is to protect our precious wines. Don't let the cliché make you miss out on the world's fine wines!
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