Not surprisingly, New World wineries have more openly embraced twist-off closures than Old World producers, who still rely heavily on cork for sealing their bottles.
Much of what defines New World winegrowing relies on advances in technology, and while wine closures are less about technology, they reflect a mindset among vintners that recognizes the shortcomings of corks as well as the viability of their alternatives.
According to our statistics based on wines reviewed in 2012 by Wine Spectator editors, 91 percent of New Zealand's wines were bottled under twist-off, followed by Australia (67 percent), Oregon (23 percent), Argentina (14 percent), Washington (12 percent) and California (8 percent).
By comparison, only 6 percent of Spanish wines reviewed by us in 2012 had twist-offs, followed by France, with 3 percent, and Italy, with only 2 percent.
Overall, roughly 11 percent of all the wines we reviewed in 2012 came in twist-offs, which is telling. Alternatives to cork have met resistance in many markets and, just a decade or so ago, twist-offs were rare. Ten percent of the wines we reviewed in 2011 were botled under screw cap, while in 2005, the total was just 5 percent twisties.
In California, PlumpJack's decision to bottle half of its 1997 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet with twist-offs (and charge $10 more for it!) provided an important reference date. While some vintners who tested twist-offs said consumers, retailers and distributors balked at wines that weren't bottled with corks, PlumpJack reports their twist-off reserve hasn't faced strong resistance, and they are currently partnering with UC Davis in a long-term screw-cap effectiveness study.
What's also telling is that more vintners are addressing the cork taint issue head on, as well as cork's deterioration over time. Virtually every winemaker I know admits that corks are a huge problem and some of the most prestigious wineries in the world—including Bordeaux first-growth Margaux—are experimenting with alternative closures. Most Old World and California wineries have resisted the change thus far, primarily because of image, tradition and close-minded consumers. And some vintners have given twist-offs a try only to abandon them in the face of consumer resistance. If trends continue, however, we'll only see more twist-offs in the future.