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.
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 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.