Bottled wine has traditionally been sold with a cork, but increasingly, stores sell wine with a screw cap. After reading an article recently on the debate of corks vs. screw tops, it got us thinking about the merits of both.
Let’s be honest, screw cap wine has a reputation for being cheap and cheerful. It’s not a wine you’d expect to be served in a high-class restaurant, but it is the type of wine you buy when you are shopping on a budget from a site like Underground Cellar. But is this a fair assessment?
Corks and screw caps both have pros and cons.
Corks are the traditional method of sealing wine and most established wineries have sealed their bottles with corks for decades, or in some cases, hundreds of years. As any wine buff will tell you, corks release oxygen into the wine, which helps the wine to age better. This is very important for better vintages, which are stored in wine cellars for many years, either to improve the flavor or as an investment.
Another good reason to use cork is that cork is a renewable material – once harvested, it grows back. For anyone concerned about the environment, this is an important issue.
The downside of using cork for sealing wine is that cork is expensive due to the variable nature of the cork harvesting process. Naturally, this means the wine will be more expensive overall. In addition, a low-quality cork won’t seal the bottle properly, which can cause the wine to spoil in storage. Some wines will also spoil if they come into contact with the cork due to incorrect storage.
Screw caps are a non-traditional method of sealing a bottle of wine, but they are cheaper than cork and more readily available, which allows winemakers to produce cheaper vintages for mass-market consumers. Screw caps are also easier to use, as you don’t need a corkscrew to open a bottle of wine with a screw cap. Screw tops offer a tighter seal, too, so if you want to ensure the wine will remain sealed for the long-term and it doesn’t need to undergo an aging process, a wine bottle with a screw cap allows for better consistency.
On the downside, purists out there will likely turn their nose up at a bottle of wine with a screw top since, for the most part, it’s mainly cheaper wine that’s sold with a screw cap. In addition, screw caps are not renewable, although they can be recycled. They also don’t allow oxygen to enter the sealed bottle, which affects the natural aging process.
Which is Better?
The cork vs. screw top debate depends on your aim. If you are building a long-term collection of wine, look for fine vintages with a cork, but if all you want is a tasty bottle of red to drink with a steak, a screw top bottle is just as good, and probably much cheaper!