Tracking the Screw Cap’s Record of Success

tops.jpgAbout the same time Vinesse came into being, a 10-year study by the Australian Wine Research Institute was just getting under way.

The study dealt with the effectiveness of screw caps as wine bottle closures. Were they just as effective as corks? Less effective? Could they possibly be more effective?

At the time, a small number of wineries had embraced the closure, mostly for their lower-priced bottlings. And, as one might imagine, there was quite a bit of blow-back from the cork-producing industry.

I can remember one meeting among our company’s small staff. We were considering featuring a wine that was sealed with a screw cap, and we wondered what our members would think about it. Would they be turned off by the idea? I can vividly recall strong cases being made on both sides of the issue.

All of us appreciated the history and tradition associated with corks, and we understood that a vast majority of wines sealed with corks ended up smelling and tasting just as the vintner envisioned.

That said, if there was a better way to protect that wine in the bottle, we were open to giving it a try. Over time, Vinesse featured more and more wines sealed with screw caps.

When the study was completed, the results were reported in Wine Spectator magazine.

Interestingly, and significantly, the study wasn’t undertaken to prove anything about screw caps, one way or another. Rather, it was to determine how well wine would age under various closures.

A 1999 Semillon was selected for the test, and after 10 years, the wine aged in bottles sealed with a screw cap were “wonderful to drink,” according to the Wine Spectator story.

As for most of the wines sealed with any other closure, they were “completely undrinkable.” It was a big win for screw caps.

The study underscored another long-held tenet of the Vinesse staff — that long-term aging of wine is a calculated risk at best.

A vast majority of wines being made today are drinkable and enjoyable upon release. Some may benefit from another year or two in the bottle, but beyond that, the possibility of encountering a tainted wine heightens with each passing year.

While the screw cap may not be as “romantic” as the cork, there is proof that it’s very reliable over the long haul.

I know around our house, we get equally excited about the “crackle” of a screw cap as we do about the “pop” of cork. These days, we don’t even think about it anymore.

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Posted in Editor's Journal
2 comments on “Tracking the Screw Cap’s Record of Success
  1. Michael Cowan says:

    Corks are biodegradeable and screw caps are not. Environmentally there is reason to stay with the cork. They even have use in hobbies.

  2. Bob Henry says:

    From 30 Second Wine Advisor “WineLoversPage”
    (posted April 16, 2010):

    “One picture, 1,000 words”


    Accompanying exhibit:

    “Bonus” exhibit (three points in time):

    30 Second Wine Advisor lead-in paragraphs:

    “The picture above really does tell a remarkable story, offering a dramatic pictorial follow-up on my discussion last week about alternative wine-bottle closures (“Plug ugly,” April 9, 2010).

    “What’s it about? All 14 bottles contain identical samples of a Leasingham Estate 1999 Clare Valley Semillon, all cellared together for a decade. The colors tell the tale that 10 years of aging wrote: They range all the way from watery pale to a dank, dead dark brown.

    “The bottle on the left, perfect in color (and reportedly in taste), was closed with a sturdy Stelvin-brand metal screw cap. All the others are plugged with a variety of natural and processed cork or synthetic stoppers. If this doesn’t close the case, it makes a mighty strong argument to the jury.

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