What is better for wine, corks or screw caps?

Paul Morrone |

Screw caps have historically been associated with cheap wine. Back in my college days of Boone’s Farm and Riunite Lambrusco, cork screws were never needed. Holidays when I was a child always had a gallon jug of wine with a screw cap in the center of the dinner table. My relatives did not seem to care about screw caps because all they cared about was that there was a jug of wine to drink. It would have been more work if there was a cork and gallon jugs only came in screw caps anyway.

Screw caps actually protect the wine better and preserve the true flavor longer than cork. Corks can dry out if the wine is not stored correctly with the bottle on its side to keep the cork moist. Corks are designed to let some air into the wine but if the cork dries out and cracks, too much air can then enter the wine. There is nothing more frustrating than a cork breaking and pieces of the cork getting into the wine. Air is the best friend and worst enemy of wine. Letting wine “breath” and use of aerators releases some of the bouquet and flavor of the wine. Letting the wine breathe in addition to air infiltration also allows sediments from tannins in the wine to settle to the bottom of the bottle. If you open a bottle of wine and do not finish the entire bottle, make sure you either replace the cork or screw cap or use a wine stopper. Keep excess air out because it will ruin the wine!

Some corks can taint the taste of the wine by adding a distinctive musty aroma of wet newspapers or cardboard. There is a wider use of synthetic versions of a cork that will not dry out or will not taint the taste of the wine. Both natural and synthetic corks are removed with cork screws, the good old fashioned way. Part of the fun of ordering wine in a restaurant is the presentation of the bottle, the cutting of the foil and the removal and presentation of the cork. You are supposed to smell the cork to see if there is an obvious bad odor which is a sure sign of wine that has turned to expensive vinegar or worse. There is not much to do with a screw cap.

Another part of the debate is the cost to change the bottling process and the bottle design. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it mentality exists with many multi-generational vineyards. Also, it is thought that white wines and reds that are supposed to be enjoyed while they are young are more appropriate for the screw cap. This would mean wineries should ideally have two bottling processes, corks and screw caps.

I love drinking red wine so opening bottles is by default part of the experience. I have enjoyed many a fine bottle with a screw cap. My loyalties do favor the traditional cork. We actually have collected corks over the years from the various wines we have enjoyed. Ironically, no screw caps have made the collection. The best thing about wine is you drink it and enjoy it. I for one favor the use of the cork screw versus a twist of the wrist.


Until the Next Tom’s Take…………