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The Cork vs. Screw Cap Debate

Its early March and still deep in winter, yet our opening draws nearer as we are getting ready to start bottling. Its been a long process yet it feels like a whirlwind. One of the questions we debated was whether to cap or cork our wines.
Unset Wine Caps - Trail Estate Winery
The Case for Cork
The case for cork is mainly that its just the traditional way of doing things. We admit there’s something nice about opening a corked bottle for friends and a screw cap is a different proposition. That said, its less fun if the cork happened to dry out, come out in pieces, get stuck in the neck, or be pushed to the bottom to be gracelessly foraged out.
What about Aging?
There is some thinking that “cork is better for aging”. This is an area up for debate. While corks do facilitate aging, they don’t exclusively do so. Most flavours developed in aging are developed anaerobically without oxygen. In fact, you’ll notice that some premium corked wines are sealed with a bead of wax to limit (or eliminate) gas exchange – a practice that runs counter to the presumed benefit of cork allowing wine to breathe. To this one can add – as we’ve all seen our share of – bad quality cork. This adds unpredictability into the mix of any aging process.
The Change to Screw Caps
Screw caps are only one of the cork alternatives. And they are increasingly finding wider market acceptance. You’ll notice many higher-end wines have adopted screw caps as their closure of choice. In fact, screw caps which were once the domain of table wines and New World wines have gained considerable traction regardless of the place of origin or price point. One big advantage we see in screw caps is that there is no cork which could – and ~1-3% of corks definitely will – cause an undesirable cork taint in wine.
Moving Ahead with Less Worry
A fair amount of our wines will be fairly aroma-centric with delicate layers of flavour. That means preserving those falvours and avoiding cork taint is key. Screw caps are ideal as they help preserve the nose and freshness. And, there is still a bit of oxygen in the top of each bottle to help that part of the aging process which requires oxygen.
“Screwcaps have shown wines that are brighter, clearer and more focused. Fruit and mineral characters shine through better than before.”
Ken Canaiolo Engebretsen
President of the Norwegian Sommelier Association
Lastly, screw caps are just practical. Less worry about laying bottles on their sides to keep the cork moist. Less worry about the humidity and temperature wines are stored at means less running to the basement. Less fiddling putting the cork back in the bottle. And yes, never again being caught without a corkscrew. This is progress.
Notes: Its evident there is still lots of debate among some quarters – and debate we always welcome!
A useful site for more information is http://www.screwcapinitiative.com.
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