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Dear Dr. Vinny,
What’s your feeling on screwcaps vs. corks on wine bottles? Does the screwcap indicate a cheaper or more pedestrian wine, and the cork just the opposite for the most part? Should screwcapped wine bottles be aged and stored on their sides like corked bottles?
—John C., Gloucester, N.J.
I think the days of associating screwcaps with cheap and pedestrian wines are over, or at least coming to an end. I can think of plenty of high-profile, expensive, terrific wines with a twist-off, and many cheap and pedestrian wines are under cork.
Producers have switched to screwcaps and other closures to ensure quality and reduce the possibility of contamination with TCA (the chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole), which can get into a wine via a faulty cork and make a wine smell musty and damp.
I still see some hesitation to bottle wines intended for long-term aging under screwcaps—the thinking is that wine collectors who know how wines evolve under cork will be less certain how that same wine would evolve with a screwcap. But as more and more producers are using screwcaps, there are more tastings of wines aged under this topper, and the results are encouraging. From what I’ve seen, screwcapped wines do evolve, just at a slower rate. I’m certainly looking forward to the day when I want to open a bottle of wine I’ve been collecting for a long time and not have to worry about a) the wine having TCA, b) it showing signs of oxidation, and c) fussing with crumbly corks.
That’s not to say I’m a topper snob. I’m still making my wine purchases based on the juice inside, not the way the wine is topped. As far as storing a wine with a screwcap, you don’t have to worry about which way to store it, unlike cork, which might dry out if you don’t store it horizontally. I just use my wine racks for all my bottles.
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