Wine Myth #2: The Screwcap

24 Feb

If you have ever encountered a wine that is dull and lifeless in colour, has a musty nose, and tastes of mould with hints of wet newspaper and carpet, you probably know what it feels like to get a corked wine. The screwcap was introduced in 2001 as an answer to this problem, which affects up to 15% of all wines, depending on which expert you believe. There is still a popular myth that wine closed with a screwcap means a tacky or inferior product. These days many of the world’s best wine producers swear by them.

The romantics among us (this writer included) revel in the special ritual of cutting away the foil, sinking the screw into the cork, pulling it out with a assertive ‘POP’, intensely sniffing the wood before confidently giving our verdict on its contents (at this stage, to whoever will listen). Sure where is the joy in opening a wine bottle in a matter of seconds like it were a can of coke?

For all the merits of this ceremony you’d wonder if the high spoilage rate is worthwhile. Cork is a product of nature after all, and its inconsistency can lead to significant amounts of air which can taint the wine. Having said that the cork also has the incredible ability to let the wine breathe, something which is important in ageing wines. At this stage we don’t really know how screwcaps will affect wine in this ageing process. Cork is also a green, sustainable product.

While the screwcap is ideal in that it has a perfectly air-tight seal, almost guaranteeing flavour and freshness, this isn’t entirely beneficial. The unpleasant smell of hydrogen sulfide, a by-product of the fermentation process, can become completely trapped inside a wine bottle sealed by screwcap. In general though, the screwcap has an almost zero percent failure rate. This makes it the ideal closure for most wines.

As for plastic corks, forget it. Any obstacle which prevents you from gaining desperate access to the bottle at 4 in the morning without a corkscrew or best efforts of knife, hammer or whatever other blunt instrument ready to hand, is not the answer.

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2 Responses to “Wine Myth #2: The Screwcap”

  1. Tony Nugent March 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    This is true I’m sure but I still wouldn’t bring a gift of a screw top bottle of wine to someone!

  2. Chief Grapist March 25, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Depends on the recipient I suppose. It’s definitely becoming more acceptable these days. However I’ve always believed Old World wines are the way to go with a present when you’re trying to impress, and these producers are generally reluctant to embrace the screwcap, so it’s never been an issue for me.

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