The Corkers vs. The Screwtops–The Real Political Debate of 2016

Tired of hearing about Trump’s border campaign and Hillary’s scandals? How about shifting your focus to the great Cork Campaign and the Screwtop Scandals? Never heard of them? Well, that’s because I just made those up…sort of…

The names might be a mockery, but the concept behind them is actually a pretty real thing in wine culture! Should you stick with tradition and put a cork in it? Or should you just say “Screw it!” and screw it? Some wine-o’s will pick a side and stand firm, others like myself will stay neutral and acknowledge there are benefits and downfalls to each type of wine stopper.

 

The Corkers

Let’s start with the obvious reason to purchase corked wine–tradition! Historically, this is just how wine was preserved. As a wine-lover, there is something ceremonial about plunging a corkscrew into the spongy cork and hearing that ever-so-pleasing pop as you yank it from the bottleneck. Something about simply unscrewing a metal top is extremely anti-climactic.

Tradition aside, there is the benefit of ageing a wine in a corked bottle. The porous nature of a cork allows just the right amount of air into the bottle over time to give you that perfectly smooth textured wine once the time comes to drink it. Therefore, I would have to argue that corks are beneficial for wines that get better with age, like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. As time goes on letting air slowly through the cork, your Cab will become softer and fruitier and your Chard will become smooth and buttery.

 

The Screwtops

The future of wine bottling is in the screw top. Again, we’ll start with one of the obvious reasons to choose screw tops–for the winemaker, it’s cheaper than buying corks and for the consumer, it’s convenient to open and re-close.

Another obvious reason for choosing screw tops is the problem of “cork taint”. Every now and then, albeit rarely, a cork will be affected by a contaminant. This contaminant can be mold or chemical-related during manufacturing. Imagine that lovely scene I described earlier when you open a bottle for your guests. Everyone is watching, eager for their first pour. Pop..Pour…Pewww!! What is that stench of dirty socks in a gym locker? Cork taint. The bottle is no good, and hopefully you’ve been a frugal grape and not spent over $20 on it because it’s going right down the drain 😦

Finally, for aged wines, studies have shown that a screw top should not affect the quality or ageing process of a wine, so do not automatically assume a wine is poor quality because it is screwed shut.

 

Where do I stand?

I have no judgments about the quality of a wine based on its top, but I am more of a “corker” in the sense that I love that ritualistic feeling of opening a bottle the traditional way. Plus, I love collecting corks!

For now, given the research and information I have read about, I will choose corked wines if they are aged and meant to have been exposed to air slowly over time, and all other wines I have decided it really doesn’t matter.

 

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School’s Out for Summer

Well, guys, my first WSET experience has ended. After all the studying, all the highlighting, all the flashcards, all the practice tests – and let’s be honest, all the wine tasting – I have completed Level 2 of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust course! Although the class ended a couple of weeks ago, I just recently found out my score…

82%!! This means I passed “with merit”. I can’t help but be a little frustrated with myself that I was 3% away from passing “with distinction”! I was so close! All my life I have been a straight B student, balancing on the line of “just above average”, so at least I’m consistent 😉 And I am still proud that my hard-earned “merit” will be displayed on my certificate.

I credit my passing of course to studying, but also paying very close attention to every word in every sentence of the question. The answer might seem obvious at first, but then one word that indicates a wine is from a certain region or climate might change the answer. It also helped me to jot down or make mental notes of everything I knew about each word, term, grape, region, etc. that was mentioned in the question, and it helped me put the pieces together to mark the correct answers (41 answers out of 50 to be exact…)

 

So now what?

It’s technically summer vacation! Yes, I have a regular, full time job, but that does not discount that feeling of relief I remember so well back in elementary and high school. It is time to relax and enjoy wine perhaps without analyzing every quality, but to just drink it for the sake of drinking.

The Level 3 classes begin in September, so after I save up a little more money I’ll be able to cover the cost of that next adventure. Cheers!