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Cork versus screwcap

There is a saying, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But should you judge a wine by its closure?

Opening a wine bottle carries with it anticipation, excitement and a whole lot of emotions. Picture this: After a long day, you finally get to sit down and open your favourite bottle of wine (with cork closure). As you pour yourself a glass, you catch a whiff of something reminiscent of wet cardboard or smelly socks! That instant disappointment when you realized that the bottle you just uncorked is… well… corked!

Cork taint is a contaminant in wine caused by musty aroma compounds. The most common culprit is 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA). This infection (which incidentally can come from sources other than corks) causes a wine to be 'corked' and smell of mould, robbing it of its fruit on the palate. Studies have shown that cork taint effects about 2-3% of bottled wines (or about a bottle in every 2 cases).

Screwcaps provide the perfect seal, with different types of liner allowing differing levels of oxygen transfer. Many people find them aesthetically a turn-off, though attitudes are changing, as screwcap bottles become more prevalent. In markets such as Australia and New Zealand screw caps on bottles have overtaken cork to become the most common means of sealing bottles.

So, does that mean screwcaps are better?

Well, cork and screwcap closures are nearly identical in terms of their ability to store and age wine. Let’s look at some pros and cons of both types of closure.

Cork: Pros

- A Natural Renewable Resource

Cork is made from the bark of cork oak trees. Once harvested, the tree will regenerate

the missing bark.

- Historically Preferred

Corks are the most recognizable method of sealing your wine, and they’ve been in use

for hundreds of years. Tradition is important to some wine collectors, and corks are an

important part of wine tradition.

- Longterm Aging Proven

The tiny pores on a cork allows minuscule amounts of air to interact with the wine,

which can transform the aroma and flavor over time. This makes cork the top choice for

producers of age-worthy wines.

Cork: Cons

- Expensive

Depending on the brand, corks can be up to three times as expensive as screw caps,.

Hence, affecting the final price of the wine.

- Susceptible to cork taint

1-3% Affected by TCA ‘Cork’ Taint

- Limited Natural Resource

- Variable Quality

As cork is a natural product, its quality varies depending on cork brands and their

porousness, which affects the rate at which air interacts with the wine in the bottle.

Screwcap: Pros

- Consistency

TCA is almost nonexistent under screw cap.

Ability to retain the natural fruitiness of wine.

- Longevity

Long term aging studies have shown positive results. We still do not know enough

about exactly how different fine wines will age under screwcaps to be able to give very

precise advice, but both white and red wines have been kept in good condition for

more than 30 years using a screwcap closure.

- Affordability

Screw caps can vary in price, depending on quality. Generally, however, they’re

cheaper than natural cork.

- Easy to open

Screw caps open with a simple twist of the wrist. There’s no need for any gadgets

beyond a free hand and a little muscle.

Screwcap: Cons

- Negative environmental impacts

Mostly made from non-renewable resources.

- Recyclable but not biodegradable

- Breaks Tradition

It’s not uncommon for screw caps to be associated with cheaper, modern wines. Some

wine collectors see screw caps as a violation of wine tradition.

Cork or Screwcap? You be the judge.