Saturday, June 19, 2010

To Cork or Not to Cork, That is the Question

"I made wine out of raisins so I wouldn't have to wait for it to age."  -Steven Wright-

You may have noticed that more and more wine producers are using metal screw caps to seal their wine bottles and the reasons are all good for the consumer.  The only real loss, in my opinion, is the romance associated with the sound of a cork erupting from the bottle.  Of course, my Mother, the Queen of White Zinfandel, wouldn't understand the argument since none of her wine bottles have corks.  But I have many wine customers at Trader Joe's wonder why corks are being replaced by screw tops.

Most wine bottles from New Zealand utilize metal screw caps and Australia is also going in that direction.  Why the shift from cork to metal closures?  TCA, or trichloroanisole, a compound formed when chlorine used for bleaching reacts with mold already growing in the cork.  You've kprobably experienced the musty smell and the dull taste of "corked" wine.  Unfortunately, humans are very sensitive to TCA and can detect it even in very weak solutions.

The problems with "corked" wine seems to be on the increase because cork manufacturers are having trouble finding sufficient quantities of high quality cork.  Of course, many are now using synthetic cork, but many consumers find them difficult to remove from the bottle, myself included.

The screw caps mostly used are called Stelvin capsules and are made up of a screw cap, a long skirt, and a liner specifically designed for contact with wine and to avoid leakage.  Stelvin seals have doubled in sales during the past few years, particularly in New Zealand and Australia, but also in the French wine areas of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Alsace.  Perhaps, when the French wineries begin bottling their premium wines with screw caps, we will know that they have achieved acceptance.

Dave Letterman's Top 10 Reasons for Using Metal Screw Caps (Dave didn't really do this list)

10.  Saves cork trees.
  9.  No more "corked" bottles of wine.
  8.  You can store bottles standing up, rather than laying down.
  7.  Easy to reseal.
  6.  A resealed bottle of wine won't leak while on its side in the refrigerator.
  5.  The screw cap won't break in half while opening the bottle.
  4.  You only need an opposable thumb to open the bottle.
  3.  Easier to sneak one more glass before bedtime.  No one will hear the bottle open.
  2.  My TJ's wine newsletter will be renamed, from "Uncorked" to "Unscrewed."
And the #1 reason for using a wine bottle with a screw cap rather than a cork....

Easier to sneak it into the movies and quietly open in the dark.

So, in summary, the next time you see a bottle with a screw cap, don't harken back to the era when only very inexpensive, inferior wines used screw caps to keep production costs down.  Today, more and more quality wines are bottled with screw caps.

          Tom da "Wine Guy"

"There are two reasons for drinking wine: when you are thirsty, to cure it; when you are not thirsty, to prevent it.  Prevention is better than cure.   -Thomas Love Peacock-



At August 5, 2010 at 5:36 PM , Blogger Bob said...

Wow Tom, just read all your blogs. Fantastic, colorful, informative and very enjoyable reading. I'm hooked.

I was sitting here enjoying a bottle of 2008 Canard Sauvage Dry Creek Zin, liked what I was drinking; googled reviews and voila!

How do I subscribe to your monthly newsletter?


At August 11, 2010 at 4:38 PM , Blogger Tom da Wine Guy said...

HELLO BOB. Thank you for your kind assessment. As of today, you can follow my blog at a new site. Check out:

I moved because I was having technical problems that could not be resolved. Hope to hear from you on the new blog site.

Tom da Wine Guy


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