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Taking Twist-Offs on the High Seas

Alternative closures minimize the chance of a faulty wine
Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jul 2, 2014 3:00pm ET

When I travel with wine, I prefer bottles with twist-off seals. That shouldn't come as a surprise to any regular readers of this blog or my magazine column. I'm convinced of the validity of twisties, and hauling around a case of them gives me a chance to test my own belief.

I recently spent a week on the Pacific on a fishing boat half-way down the Baja California coast, and the captain and the owners of the Sojourn, out of San Diego, all but encouraged anglers to BYOW, since that was one item they didn't stock (the meals, by the way, were excellent). New Zealand wines, because almost all are twist-offs, are my favorites, but as you know, more and more wineries from everywhere are getting the message. It's OK to eschew cork in favor of a more reliable and easy-to-use closure. No point in risking a faulty cork when you're many briny miles from land.

Many of those aboard also brought wine for dinner and, naturally, the topic of my wines came up. Several anglers were curious about screw caps—a term I avoid—and during the course of dinner we shared bottles. Sadly, a couple of the wines my companions brought were corked, or otherwise spoiled. Mine all showed perfectly, as expected, a pleasing mix of young California and Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. A nicely aged Australian Riesling was dry and flinty.

At points I convinced those wine drinkers of the validity and ease of use of twist-offs. Whether they will use that knowledge the next time they're shopping for wine I'll never know. Advocating twisties is a bit like being a door-to-door salesman. At each stop you have to make your pitch. But I do know the ranks of vintners from everywhere using twisties has grown by leaps and bounds.

Markus Nybom
Sweden —  July 3, 2014 4:47am ET
Thanks for your article, James. I'm curious, why do you favor the term twist-off over screwcap?
Hugh L Sutherland Jr-m
owens cross road,al 35763 —  July 3, 2014 2:57pm ET
The older you get, the more you appreciate not having to fight with a cork. For my Swedish friend, I prefer to "twist" a cap than "screw" a cap. Sounds more up-scale as obviously there are many English words that have different meanings.
David Crowther
Tuscaloosa, AL USA —  July 3, 2014 6:21pm ET
I am on the twistie bandwagon. I wish Chateauneuf du Pape would use screw closures!
Richard Replin
Denver, CO —  July 3, 2014 9:13pm ET
Twisties are ugly, and the bottles are ugly with the caps off. They look like soda bottles. Wine drinking is an esthetic experience. Why diminish it with an ugly bottle on the table?
James Laube
Napa —  July 3, 2014 9:17pm ET
Markus, Hugh is correct on a couple of counts. Memorial Day weekend I tasted all three days and opened 20 bottles a day, with a leverpull...what a drag...

Twist off just sounds better to me than screw; I think it's correct to say the caps are screwed on, but twisted off...unscrewed...? Don't think that works either. Really a matter of semantics?

At about the time cork taint became increasingly evident, I notice how difficult it was for my aging mother to open a bottle of wine. She liked simple reds and white, and requiring a person to use a tool (i.e. corkscrew) to open a bottle made no real sense. Since we have evidence that wines age just as well under twisties, moving away from cork removes one more factor that can influence a wine...closure and heat the wine's biggest two enemies once in bottle.

Michael Ashley
Cleveland, OH —  July 4, 2014 9:49am ET
I agree that I would like to see a move toward twist off. I recently purchased 6 bottles of 2002 Dead Arm Shiraz from a reputable retailer in northern California where four of the six bottles may not have been stored properly because the corks simply disintegrated and were dried out like dust to the point I couldn't even get a good pull on the corks that just fell apart. I had to take pictures and send them to the retailer to try and get some kind of credit with 3 of the bottles tainted and poured down the drain. I know twist caps would have solved all this frustration. I was excited to get a great bottle of older wonderful Shiraz only to be disappointed because of ruined corks.
Sao Anash
santa barbara —  July 7, 2014 12:42pm ET
VIVA LA TWIST-OFF's!! Great blog post. Personally, I like to refer to them as Twisters, which sounds fun and exciting like an old-timey carnival ride.
Steven Mirassou
Livermore Valley —  July 10, 2014 10:37am ET
Screw caps eliminate one more barrier to getting wine into people's mouths. And with competition so fierce from all sides, the wine industry can use as much help as possible.
Kenton Campbell
Washington DC —  July 10, 2014 5:37pm ET
Has anyone seen a twist-off from Portugal??
Vince Liotta
Elmhurst, Il —  July 10, 2014 9:26pm ET
When first introduced to the closure it was called a "screw-cap". It is a useful and accurate term, and I have seen no reason to change it. If it ain't broke. . . I don't have a problem using twist-off synonymously, perhaps with a customer who is finicky about buying bottles with the closure.

But how ironic to complain that a screw-cap is inelegant or "ugly". I find it far more inelegant to open a special bottle only to discover it smells of wet cardboard.

I would add that glass stoppers seem to me an excellent solution: natural, simple and aesthetically pleasing. We just need some more research on this.

And Kenton, check out some Vinho Verde at your favorite wine store. Plenty of "twist-offs".

Jocelyn Rider
Honolulu Hawaii —  July 24, 2014 9:22pm ET
Saw a bottle of "Hill of Grace" the other day and was surprised to see a twist off cap! The cap didn't bother me,only the $850 price tag! What do they know.......

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