I did not bring a lot of wines back with me after a recent trip to Northern Spain, mainly because I spent most of my money on a single bottle of Vega Sicily…I had everything planned: A lovely evening with good friends, good music, and of course, good food. And the highlight of the evening: the very expensive bottle of Vega Sicily. I think you know what happened next…yes, cork!

I do not want to participate in the closure debate in this blog, although many similar events really annoyed me during my past 13 years in the wine industry. Expensive wines, corked!

Let’s consider the upside of corks: It is the traditional closure which was considered to have all the necessary specifications for being the most suitable closure for wine bottles. It owns the “romantic dimension” for closures, because the popping sound of a pulled cork enforce so much fond feelings of happiness, love and joy…(although those feelings easily disappear as the fruit in a fruit scalped bottle of wine if the cork was tainted…). The downside of course is TCA and all the related components responsible for a wine lover to break a bottle of potentially good wine with a hammer. In all fairness to cork closures however, in the hunt for the TCA perpetrator, it was discovered that TCA may also come from oak barrels, bottling lines, water, and a million other sources. This unfortunately is but a small comfort to any wine lover who has poured an expensive bottle of tainted wine down the drain.

What are the advantages of screw caps? Tyson Stelzer from Down Under, well known writer and expert on the field of screw caps, listed the following 20 “reasons for choosing screw caps”:

  1. Remove the risk of corky taint.
  2. Remove the risk of sporadic oxidation.
  3. Avoid flavour modification.
  4. Eliminate flavour scalping.
  5. Allow the proper aging of white wines.
  6. Allow the proper aging of red wines.
  7. Oxygen ingress is NOT a condition for wine ageing.
  8. Maintain a reliable long term seal.
  9. Facilitate vertical storage.
  10. Are not affected by humidity.
  11. Provide greater resistance to temperature change.
  12. Resistant to odours in the cellar.
  13. Are not vulnerable to insects in the cellar.
  14. Do not need to be recapped.
  15. Wines can be cellared for longer periods.
  16. Easy to open.
  17. Are easily resealed.
  18. Are cost effective.
  19. Can be recycled.
  20. Are romantic…

 

Sounds like such a great idea!

Negative criticism on screw caps were published in Wine Business Monthly (2007/15/04) in an article by Cyril Penn entitled Independant Consumer Research on closures. Apparently consumers in the USA, UK, Australia & France prefer natural cork in wines over $15. The latest criticism against screw caps is the large carbon footprint. Cairn Environment in France conducted tests which concluded the production of 10  kg of CO2 per ton (screw caps) vs. 2.5 kg of CO2 per ton for corks.

Frustrating isn’t it?

Bertus Fourie is a winemaker, turned Enology lecturer and creator of the Barista coffee Pinotage.