Tuesday, October 4, 2011

To Cork or Screw

A topic that seems to be of heavy consideration for wine consumers these days is the choice between wine with screw caps or corks.  Its definitely a debate worth looking into, and is a huge decision for a winery to choose what type of bottle closure they use.  The usage of true cork is one that carries with it a great deal of tradition and there are a great deal of consumers that would never consider buying a bottle that doesn't use cork.  However,there have been many concerns about TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) which is the compound that gives wine a musty flavor. 

According to Christian Butzke, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Food Science at Purdue University, "wine can be spoiled for many reasons unrelated to cork or TCA."  There are a variety of reasons a wine could be spoiled: contamination of wine processing equipment, oxidization, airborn molds, etc.  Dr. Butzke goes on to say, "The habit of blaming cork may explain why estimates of TCA contamination based on anecdotal evidence range from 2 percent to 10 percent and above.  But a large and growing amount of hard evidence concludes that the incidence of TCA has dropped precipitously in recent years and is commonly measured at less than 1 percent of wines sealed with real cork."

So...with this being said, I think that most people should not be too worried about corks 'ruining' their wine.  But because of the misconception about corks, a lot of wineries are turning to alternative closures such as synthetic corks and screw caps.  We are beginning to see a lot of new world wines, in particular, switching to alternative bottle closures.  France is still pretty traditional in their wine making techniques, so it would be pretty rare to see them using anything but cork (but we love them for their tradition though!).  Anyway, below I have outlined the pros and cons to each type of closure.

Traditional Corks:
Pros:  They are traditional and provide a nice solid seal.  Those who like to smell the cork can do so.
Cons:  They contain TCA and can possibly contaminate the wine.  Also, they can dry out and crumble.

Synthetic Cork:
Pros:  There is no need to worry about TCA contamination in the wine.  Another benefit is that aesthetically it looks very similar to the traditional cork and you can still use your corkscrew to open and get that lovely "pop" affect.
Cons:  The seal is not as good as a true cork and can lead to oxidization in the bottle.

Screw Caps:
Pros:  These wines are easy to open and a perfect seal. 
Cons:  People like to pop corks, and for those traditionalists, unscrewing a bottle of wine can make the experience a little less special. 

Another cool invention I have seen that is becoming popular are "Zorks".  They are a type of closure that you can peal and reseal and have a small reusable cork inside.  The company is in Australia, and I have seen them in a few different Aussie wines lately. 

So now that we have seen some of the pros and cons to each choice, I will go ahead and insert my opinion here.  I think for me personally, it doesn't rightly matter what type of closure a bottle has.  If I have an interest in the wine, I am going to get it, I am going to open it ("pop" or no "pop") and I am going to enjoy it. 

But what are your thoughts fellow wine lovers?


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