The Case for Screwcaps

by Tim Elliott on September 29, 2005

Last night I pulled out a bottle of Ravenswood Amador County Zinfandel from my cellar to enjoy with some Italian food. Once I poured the first glass, I knew something was not quite right and the first whiff was a mixture of cork and plums. Usually when you have a truly “corked” bottle, the aroma is not like fruit or wine but wet cardboard and this didn’t smell that bad. The taste was OK, but clearly affected by a faulty cork. If I had bought this at my local wine store, I might have poured out the glass and put the bottle aside for return, but I bought this one directly from the winery about a year ago. Thinking that this defect might blow off like the GSM I tasted last week, I let it breath in the glass during dinner. By the end it was diminished, but not totally gone…

As fate would have it, I voted on my preferred closure over at eBob earlier in the day and had selected screwcaps as my closure of choice for wines meant to be consumed within 3 years. For the other two choices I selected natural corks, as they are the only closure with known performance for aging wines over 5 years or so. Plastic corks tend to age wines more rapidly than the other two, so these are only useful for everyday wines meant to be drunk soon after purchase. Screwcaps seem like the best alternative to cork, but we don’t have much data on aging fine wine with them. After my most recent experience of two corked wines in as many weeks, I would change my vote to screwcaps for wines to be aged 3-7 years and cork for wines only to be aged for decades. I hope more wineries will adopt this closure for their premium bottlings in coming vintages. Cheers to the folks over at Argyle, who have been sealing their fine Pinot Noir with screwcaps for a few years now.

  • http://ironicteachings.blogspot.com Leab

    It’s amazing to me how many people will ignore a wine completely just because of a screwcap. One of my favorite white wines (Conundrum) is a screwcap.
    I think, however, that the reason is because it used to be that the cheaper wines were screwcaps. Same thing with Box Wines. You say, “Franzia,” and people run. However, Black Box Wine is quite delicious, even though it’s in a box.
    It will be interesting to see how many wineries change to screwcap now that it’s “in”.

  • http://www.obsessionwithfood.com Derrick Schneider

    Actually, if you talk to Australians, they’d take exception to the notion that only corks have proven longevity over more than 7 years. Though I’ve not tried any, I know a number of people who’ve had Aussie screwcapped wines that are a decade or more old. They report the wines are very fresh and vibrant.

  • john

    Eating is a great hobby. I really like the flavor of Italian Food. Their pasta is really mouth watering. In addition, their pasta is really made in heaven.The food gives me more than satisfaction.

  • Saunders

    While the stelinv closure has not yet proven itself in the range of wines that can age for multiple decades, the folks at Plumpjack have been bottling the their reserve in split 6 packs (3 screw caps. 3 corks) as early as 1997 I believe. To my knowledge one of the first California producers to adopt the screw cap for their premium flagship wine (about $125/bt retail, up $400 wine list). Every year the winemaking team blind tastes these wines and to date none of them have been able to accurately distinguish every bottle as cork or screw cap. While only time will tell it seems that these wines have already passed the eight year test, which is about when most premium wines will start to spread their wings.

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