Wine Talk

Snooth User: MarioRobles

Cork vs. Screwcap

Posted by MarioRobles, Jan 8, 2009.

Do you agree that Screwcap is better than cork? for all wines or just for some? should there be a 'different approach' to winemaking depending on the closure [as some research suggest]? - personally, screwcap is the way but that's just me... Down Under is approx 80% screwcap... wines that sell for $100-$150 are more and more being released under screcap... from Chardonnay to Cellar-worthy Shiraz...


Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 8, 2009.

Speaking just for myself,

I don't have the confidence in screwcaps that I have in corks as a long term cellaring closure.

The studies on the ageing curve in wines bottled under screwcap lead me to believe that I am better off with cork finished bottles though certain issues have been addresses yet have yet to be fully tested such as the permeability issue of screwcaps and their liners.

Having worked in retail I have seen too many instances when a screwcap has been knocked against something, breaking it's seal. For wines destined for near term consumption I am all for screwcaps but for the wines i will laydown for, say, 7 years or more I am willing to deal with the TCA issue, for now.

And on another note, cork farming is an industry worth supporting as these forest are important habitats worth maintaining. Just figure out how to give us better corks please!

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Jan 8, 2009.

I agree with Greg.

Although screwcaps are great for mass market wines that aren't going to age more than 24 to 36 months (and they can even be beneficial in preserving the freshness in fruity white wines like Sauvignon and white Bordeaux), there's not enough evidence about their efficacy in aging wines, especially reds, for decades.

As for cork taint (TCA), it is not as big a problem (10 to 15% of bottles) as many (screwcap manufacturers?) say it is. Based on my tastings its down to 2 or 3 per hundred in most regions now.

If all wines under $15-$20 switch over to screwcap, then there will be a lot of good corks available for the rest!

Reply by John Andrews, Jan 8, 2009.

I'm torn on this subject. I think there is a place for screw caps and I am in favor of them for the most part. The thing that annoys me about cork is that consistency has been questionable. I have seen first hand some of the 'crap' corks that some vendors are trying to pass off as quality. There has been a few times we've had to reject entire batches of cork.

@Greg ... like your point about damage to screw caps causing problems in the seal. Never really thought about that but then again, at the winery, we have more control over the handling.

@RBoulanger ... I believe that cork taint is still an issue. Of course I don't have any empirical evidence to support this. It is based on the informal feedback I've gotten from the wineries in and around Sonoma Valley.

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Jan 8, 2009.

Not saying that cork taint isn't still a serious problem. Some wineries and regions have gotten hit by it hard with 1 or 2 bottles per case being spoiled.

However, I have found that the cork companies have been worked hard to combat the problem and that, at our tastings at work, we are seeing on average 50 to 60 good bottles before we get a corked one. That ratio is unacceptable for inexpensive wines, but given the uncertainty about screwcaps ability to age, I'd rather have my red Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhones, Riojas, Riberas, Napa Cabs, etc corked.

As far as Italy goes, it doesn't matter what you think, they are sticking with corks for most wines for the foreseeable future as screwcaps have the same bad connotation in Italy that boxed wines have in the USA!

Reply by Philip James, Jan 8, 2009.

What are the problems with screwcaps? I actually thought it was a lack of permeability that was the issue - ie, a wine would age too slowly as there simply wasnt enough oxygen in the headspace.

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Jan 8, 2009.

The big unknown is that nobody knows what happens. If I am planning on buying a bottle that I can cellar for 50 years, is the closure going to let it down? Will it rust? Will the seal fail? Will the wine not evolve without oxygen?

Here's a recent article that details their thinking.

Reply by MMason, Jan 27, 2009.

Consider myself old school and a bit of a romantic, cork is my closure of preference. The Scientist in me would like to believe that screw cap can hold up on an age worthy wine, but I don't think all the trials have been completed. I don't mind screw cap on my every day drinkers, but any bottle that I'm going to cellar, should have a cork.

I too, have had a few screw caps go loose on me and oxidize my wines. But, I've also poured many, many bottles down the drain due to cork issues. It really hurts when it's a special bottle that you've had a long time and there is no chance at obtaining a replacement from the winery. I am very sensitive to cork taint issues. I also hate those fake corks!

Reply by fibo86, Jan 27, 2009.

Screw caps were first introduced in the late 70's but a resounding no came back from the public... 20yrs on from that is when they really came into play, now the jury is still out on weather or not the ageing is affected in a large way or small, over here there experimenting with crown seals (for bubbles) and glass seals.
I agree with Greg that the seals can be broken by being smacked around but the way to tell is as simple as looking at the very top of the bottle and seeing if the top of the cap still looks completely round if not you know, however with a cork you have to wait until the bottle is opened @RB the screw cap won't let you down, it won't rust (there aluminium and you keep the wine standing not lying down ), the seal won't fail (unless you knock it) But the evolving will take longer than traditional corks.
The basic rule (from what I know) is with corks as many as every 13th bottle can have a cork problem. In saying that I too have had a couple of wines under screw cap off 1 supplied by winery of back vintages spaning 15yrs, the particular wine was a Coonawarra cabernet (all under screw except for the last three years) and I kid you not, not cork taint but HARD CORE chemical....maybe that chemical was around upon bottling and trapped the air (don't know only guessing).
The other wine was rather oxidised but couldn't find a problem with the seal ( it gives me a better excuse to take it back and get another) I've since learnt that you should try and hold the wine by the sholder not the cap as well.

As for Italy however I'm fairly sure that it's written into there DOC that it's cork only as my company approached a DOC winary in Italy and said we'd only accept screw caps, so we have the wine it's just not allowed to be considered a DOC wine even though it's from the correct appellation.

I had a winemaker from the Yarra Valley come in and she was showing her fantabulous sparkling wine now as I was saying alot of people here are going for crown seal (beer cap) on sparkling wine now she had taken it on herself to do an experiment that being laying down 1 case of bubbles 6 with crown seal 6 with cork now she said that after tasting over a period of time that the corks developed faster than the crown however it was the cork she praised (because it's the development she wanted). so I'd really say it's 6 of one and half a dozen of the other although there is another couple of closures becoming avalible here.

Another couple (winemakers) from South Australia said that they were over in Germany many many years ago completing a wine coarse and they had some sort of competion to invent new closures one of the students from the school came up with glass stoppers they took this idea and started to play.
Now when they started they did have a few problems-They had sent some to a wine writer (with the glass closure) who had a dinner party and had placed the wines he intened to taste the next day on the counter in the kitchen and went to bed....half way through the night... bang the closure actually popped out of the bottle since this incident there have been many improvements.
Unlike cork won't give TCA, crumble or dry. Unlike screw caps won't damage if bumped, won't open by accident if held by bottle top and allows air to exchange in bottle.
It's the new debate

Reply by MarioRobles, Jan 28, 2009.

Go Screwcap!

I have tasted wines in glass closures and they are fresh as a daisy, and the presentation looks fantastic!

A very experienced winemaker told me he tasted 25 year old Rieslings under screwcaps and "if he had known wines would age in that way, he would ahve moved to screwcaps 25 years ago!"

Reply by rwor, Nov 12, 2010.

Here are the latest Australian Statistics on Closures

Category      Screw-cap      Corks

Under $20 White 98.6%    1.4%

Under $20 reds    96.7%    2.3%

Over $20 White    98.5%    1.5%

Over $20 Reds    83.2%    16.8%

Apparently the reason the more expensive reds are 16.8% still under cork is that China and the USA are resisting the change. 

IMHO the jury has made its decision.


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