Don’t Judge a Wine by Its Cover
Corks, screw caps, synthetics, glass tops — there are all sorts of ways to seal a bottle of wine. ‘Closures’ or ‘stoppers’ have come a long way in the past 20 years, but some people still think a screw cap or a rubber “cork” signals a low-quality wine. It doesn’t.
Corks have been the preferred choice for closing wine since the beginning of modern Europe in the 1400’s. Cork bark is one of the few natural products that is malleable enough to hold the contents inside a glass bottle.
- Sustainable and zero waste
- Historically Preferred
- Long term Aging Proven
- Expensive (2-3x)
- 1-3% Affected by TCA ‘Cork’ Taint
- Limited Natural Resource
- Variable Quality
- Natural Corks Breathe at Variable Rates
Screw Caps and Cork Alternatives
Screw caps have only been used in wine since the early 60’s, but they’ve rapidly become a large share of the market. The reason cork alternatives have become so popular is because of a period of decreased quality cork manufacturing during the 1980’s. Basically, winemakers were tired of getting low quality corks that would cause TCA ‘cork taint’, so they switched.
Besides screw caps (made of metal and plastic), there are several ‘fake’ corks made from plastics and glass to plant-based polymers.
Cork Alternatives: Pros
- More Affordable Option
- No TCA ‘Cork’ Taint
- Long term aging studies have shown positive results
- Screwcaps are easy to open
Cork Alternatives: Cons
- Some cork alternatives don’t breathe
- Mostly Made from Non-Renewable Resources
- Recyclable but Not Biodegradable
- Variable Manufacturing Quality
- Associated with ‘Cheap’ Wine
Aren’t corks better because they “breathe?”
The longtime argument that corks are better because they breathe has been dispelled as ‘breath’ is now emulated in both screw caps and cork alternatives.
So, are screw caps better than corks?
Not at all. Although for the most part, cork alternatives are better simply because of the quality for the price. Most affordable wines ($15 and under) won’t be sealed with 100% natural cork. Instead the bottle will be closed with a technical, agglomerated and colmated cork, which are low quality alternatives to natural cork. These sub-par products are also just as unreliable with their likeliness to cause cork taint.
100% natural corks are one of the only options that are a true renewable resource, but because of their high price tag, most are reserved for wines in the $20+ bottle range.
So, which is better?
Some might say, the advantages seem to favor the screw cap as more wine drinkers aren’t storing wines for long periods of time.
However, there has been significant technological and quality control changes in the cork industry in the past two decades. Cork makes up about 70 percent of all wine closures and cork use and sales are on the rise. The growth rate of cork outpaces the growth rate of other stoppers. Starting in 2010 people began to see that the ‘problem curve’ for cork was going down while the ‘problem curve’ for alternative stoppers was going up.
In the end, whether you’re talking wine or spirits, these days you’re in pretty safe hands however your wine is sealed.
We are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the pros and cons of these various wine closures. Feel free to respond here, or on our Facebook Page.
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