Screw tops are a controversial topic in the wine industry these days.
They’ve been around since the 1950s, but have been historically equated with “cheap” bottles of wine. But what gives?
Is there really a difference between a classic cork and this newer alternative?
Taking a closer look, there’s some surprising proof that screw caps might be beneficial in a couple different ways. In fact, for the past 10-15 years, screw tops have become a more common choice of bottle closure in Australia and New Zealand. As of late, they have been infiltrating the wineries of the United States as well.
Though screw tops are in many ways “preferable” to natural corks, many wine makers and wine consumers remain wary about switching over from the more traditional corkage option.
To Cork or to Screw?
So, which is better: corks or screw tops? This is a decision with many factors to consider. Here’s what we found out:
There are a slew of risks associated with using a natural cork. 1 out of every 10-12 bottles will be “corked” and contaminated to some degree. Screw tops eliminate this potential risk of contamination and oxidation. Many makers feel that they actually better preserve the flavor of the wine and reduce the chance of bottle variation.
Though studies have shown that screw tops do reduce the rate of contamination, there remains some skepticism as to whether they are the best choice for bottles that require several years of aging to reach their full “potential.” One of the main benefits of a screw top is that it prevents any oxygen from entering the bottle; however, some contest that a small amount of oxygen is a crucial part of the aging process of wine because it serves to soften the tannins and smooth out the finish.
Natural corks have been the prominent option for centuries. They are seen by some as a staple of wine consumption. The physical act of popping open that special bottle elicits a visceral reaction that twisting off a screw top may not. For many, that pop of the cork is part of the “ceremony” of enjoying a bottle of wine. If you are out at a fancy restaurant and the waiter brings over an expensive bottle, watching him open the bottle is part of the presentation. Wine consumption is a ritual with a great deal of tradition attached and the screw top challenges that tradition.
On the other hand, a screw top bottle eliminates the need for a wine opener or any additional equipment. You don’t need to have a corkscrew handy because you can simply take off the cap. You also can put the top back on the opened wine and reseal the bottle without the need for a stopper– added bonus!
Though there are presently a number of fantastic screw top wines being produced, there is still a stigma attached to a bottle devoid of a cork. Because the screw top was for many years primarily used for inexpensive, low-quality bottles, many folks still can’t seem to equate it with a higher quality wine. This bias does seem to be dissipating, but there is still a long way to go.
Screw Top Conclusion
There is no clear-cut answer as to whether screw tops or natural corks are a “better” choice for wine bottling. There are pros and cons to both options.
While there is some trepidation about using screw tops for wines to be aged, the two real hurdles to overcome are the pre-conceived notion that screw tops indicate poor quality and that opening the bottle is part of the “tradition” of drinking wine. The latter may not be easily accomplished… but the former can!
5 Screw Top Bottles for the Discerning Wine Drinker to Try:
It is definitely worth exploring some of the screw top wines that are currently on the market to draw your own conclusion. Here are just a few of our favorites: