Corks vs. Screwcaps: The Jury Is No Longer Out

Without a doubt, in all the years I’ve been writing about wine, the question I’ve been asked more often than any other is this one: Is a wine that’s sealed with a screwcap inferior to a wine that’s sealed with a cork?screwcaps

Early on, when screwcaps were still new and had not yet established a track record, my answer was noncommittal: “We’ll see.”

My reluctance to place wines sealed with screwcaps on the same plane as those sealed with corks had to do with history and tradition. After all, the cork had been the only bottle seal for all of modern wine’s history until the screwcap was introduced.

But screwcaps have been in use for many years now, and more and more wineries are using them.

Among wine-producing countries, New Zealand was the first to jump on the screwcap bandwagon en masse, especially with its bright and expressive Sauvignon Blanc wines. The Aussies weren’t far behind, and many American vintners soon followed.

I was convinced that screwcaps were here to stay when Plumpjack Winery bottled half of its 2000 vintage Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon under screwcaps, yet still priced it at the under-cork price of $150… and the wine quickly sold out.

The main advantage of a screwcap is that it prevents the introduction of trichloroanisole, commonly known as TCA, to the wine. Somewhere between 3 and 5 percent of bottles sealed with corks show some degree of spoilage because of TCA, so using screwcaps provides dependable quality control.

The folks at Kunza understand this, and bottled their 2016 Malbec from Chile’s Maipu Valley with screwcaps.

The wine is floral, fresh and bright — and you don’t need a corkscrew to open it.

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