If you are a wine enthusiast you’ve probably noticed that screw-on caps are no longer only used on cheap wines. More and more often bottles of really good wine are being unscrewed, rather than uncorked.
How Did the Screw-On Cap Trend Begin?
Believe it or not, screw-ons have been on the market since the late 1950s. Although back then they were generally associated with cheap plonk, and a fine winemaker would by no means let such a cap anywhere near his/her brand. It was only in the early 2000s when Australian winemakers decided to put practicality before prestige and started using screw-on caps for high-end bottles of wine as well. It is cheaper, and surprisingly has additional merits as well…
Science Seals the Deal
Some winemakers prefer the screw-on method for wines that are meant to be drunk young like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. The screw-on caps provide a better seal than cork and keep oxygen out of the bottle, which ensures a well-preserved and crisp wine. Chardonnays and red wines, on the other hand, are of a heavier, fuller and a little more complex nature. As such, they could actually benefit from a slight presence of oxygen, and so corks may be a better choice for them. The extra air softens the tannin through oxidization and makes the wine smoother in taste and texture. However, not all winemakers agree with this approach.
Some sommeliers argue that screw-on caps don’t allow for calculated levels of ‘oxygen ingress’, while real corks are variable with oxygen ingress rates. There is also the cultural issue – while certain wine lovers may enjoy the quick and easy process of opening a screw-on capped bottle, traditionalists strongly argue that opening a bottle of good wine with a corkscrew is part of the wine drinking ritual. With wine it is hard and maybe even wrong to separate between product, experience and history. For some it is the actual wine that matters more than the packaging, and for others the ceremony is as important as the taste. Whether you opt for this change or against it, it cannot be denied, screw-on caps are here to stay, as are synthetic corks and even boxed and canned wines, but that’s a debate that deserves a blog-post of its own.