The debate over cork versus screw cap has been made countless times. There have been scientific articles written about it. You may have heard winemakers lament about it. But I am here to tell you that, in my mind, screw cap reigns supreme.
Yes, my winemaking journey and career started in New Zealand, but this is not a case of New World wine bias. My reasons of why screw caps are better than corks also bust a few myths and unfair prejudice against screw caps.
Choose screw cap and there will be no risk of TCA (Photo credit: Buon Vino)
No risk of TCA a.k.a. cork taint
TCA (Trichloroanisole) is caused by a fungi that results in the musty and mouldy cork taint in wine. The cork can become in contact with TCA during the processing treatment and is especially susceptible when manufacturers chose to bleach their cork. Depending on what you read, up to 20% of wines that use cork as a seal are tainted with TCA.
Imagine opening a bottle of wine that you have been ageing in the cellar for well over 20 years, only to discover it has been ruined by an overriding wet-cardboard character. I don’t know about you, but I would be mad. With screw cap there is no chance of this happening.
Screw cap closures have controlled oxygen permeability
So, the myth here is that you cannot age wines with screw cap. That is untrue. There is this beautiful thing such a modern science that has created a very reliable membrane that sits in the screw cap to allow trace amounts of oxygen to aid the bottle ageing process. Winemakers can choose to use a screw cap that is more airtight to retain freshness of white wines or opt for a screw cap that can allow tiny amounts of oxygen to mellow out tannins and develop the wine through time.
Cork is a natural malleable and porous material. Therefore, each cork has a variable consistency, allowing different rates of oxygen to come into contact of the wine so each bottle will age differently. With screw cap, all wines will age at the same rate.
Cork crumbles are not the end of the world, but I'd rather not have to double decant a bottle with a broken cork (Photo credit: Wino Sapien)
Not all corks are made equal
I am talking about the integrity of the structure of the cork. There are many different grades of cork. You have the squeaky synthetic plastic corks, sometimes a hybrid of synthetic and natural bound together by glue and cork dust to an array of good quality to poor quality 100% natural corks.
Poor quality corks have a higher chance of tainting your wine with TCA and the majority of wine sealed under cork are using the lower spectrum in terms of quality. Premium corks cost a pretty penny and only the best producers are willing to fork out that kind of money for their wines. Natural corks can also be either too dry or not dense enough, forming a poor seal or a cork that crumbles upon contact with a wine opener. Let’s be honest, no one likes cork floaties.
The list could go on, like how much more convenient it is just to crack open a bottle of wine in a park to go with your picnic, without the need to carry a wine opener with you. The cost of a screw caps are much cheaper, that can only mean your bottle of wine will be cheaper also. I strongly contend against the idea that screw caps are associated with lower quality, everyday drinking wine. It is past time that people stop thinking that way.
If you are one to prefer the romanticised pop of a cork with the risk of a poor seal or cork taint, then so be it. But I have made my point clear. Let me know which team you are on or if I have managed to convert you onto the side of screw cap?