James Molesworth pressed a hot button in his blog when he asked how his readers felt about screwcaps. The responses are running strongly in favor of screwcaps, but a few misapprehensions are also popping up. Let's try to set the record straight.
Number one, a good cork doesn't breathe. If it's letting any air into the bottle, it is introducing bottle variation. Perfect corks make perfect seals. That's the idea. Scientists know that the ageing process for wine is anaerobic. It happens in the absence of oxygen, not the presence of it. Screwcaps make a perfect seal.
Number two, Australia has documented experience with ordinary wines that have remained remarkably well preserved for 15 to 25 years under screw caps. In the past 10-12 years, some of the makers of top-end wines have been setting aside a portion of their best wines under screwcaps to see what happens. In every case, the screwcapped wines are more consistently good. The older they get, the clearer this is.
For those who find only 1 or 2 percent TCA-affected wines, I envy you. You apparently aren't sensitive to the damage smaller quantities of TCA do to a wine, robbing it of its fruit and other flavors without becoming overtly smelly. Australian scientists have also found other organisms in cork that can affect wine. Bottom line, corks introduce bottle variation, which only gets worse with age, and that ain't good.
Finally, screwcaps for wine are lined with a thin layer of polymer that does not react with the wine. The metal never touches the wine, so unless the cap is defective (which rarely happens) a wine would only taste metallic if it had a metallic taste to begin with.
I review wines from several wine regions that are proactive about screwcaps. New Zealand and Australia have led the world into the twist-off era. Several leading Oregon producers, including Argyle and WillaKenzie, are early adopters as well. So I've looked into it a lot.
I am convinced screwcaps are the best existing answer for preserving the quality of all wines. I sympathize with those who find screwcaps unaesthetic. For them the glass stopper from Germany seems good. It has the advantage of looking a bit more regal. I can see it becoming a standard, eventually, for high-end wines. Everything else is a compromise to at least some extent, including that stupid piece of bark.
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