Log In / Join Now

Screw Caps Make the Turn in America, Canada

California, Michigan, Ontario wineries put a twist on closures.

Nick Fauchald
Posted: March 9, 2004

Screw caps are continuing to gain popularity with North American vintners, who are embracing the closure as a taint-proof alternative to natural cork.

Whitehall Lane Winery in Napa Valley, known for its high-end Cabernet Sauvignon, will release 1,800 screw-capped half-bottles of its 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, at $22 each, in May. The release is a test run, and winemaker Dean Sylvester will track the aging process in the half-bottles to see how it is affected by the Stelvin closure. "As a winemaker, I'm excited to see how the wine evolves," Sylvester said.

Whitehall Lane plans to use screw caps on future 750ml bottlings, beginning with its 2004 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and 2002 Bommarito Cabernet Sauvignon.

While New Zealand and Australia producers were quick to endorse screw caps on fine wines, North American producers have been more cautious about making the switch to twist-offs. PlumpJack was the first California luxury brand to call the traditional cork stopper déclassé, when it topped half of its 1997 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with screw caps and charged an extra $10 per bottle for the controversial closure. Bonny Doon was the first large-volume U.S. producer to do the twist, when it released 80,000 cases of screw-capped Ca' del Solo in 2002. Other notable wineries have followed suit, including Sonoma-Cutrer, Downing Family Vineyards and Beringer Blass in California, and Argyle in Oregon.

In Michigan, St. Julian recently became the state's first winery to use screw caps. It recently topped 2,000 cases each of its Blue Heron, Simply White and Simply Red wines -- all proprietary blends priced at $6.50 per bottle -- with screw caps, and plans on switching its entire production of the three wines to the new closure.

"It's impossible to ignore the improvement in quality that screw caps bring," said Chas Catherman, St. Julian's executive vice president. "No other industry that has a three to five percent failure rate considers that acceptable," he added, referring to cork-topped wines.

In Canada, the Vintners Quality Alliance Ontario (VQA) announced last week that it will allow Ontario wine producers to begin using screw caps at their discretion. "We recognize that screw cap technology is now proven to be an effective closure for preserving quality wines," said VQA president Len Pennachetti in a statement. "Both consumers and the wine trade are more readily accepting screw caps as a quality closure and we don't want to restrict wineries from seeking alternatives to the traditional closures as long as wine quality is not jeopardized."

The Ontario VQA's decision follows similar action from the British Columbia VQA last July.

# # #

Learn more about corks, screw caps and other closures:

  • Nov. 15, 2003
    Screw Cap Closures for Red Wine

  • May 15, 2002
    A Screwy Situation

  • Oct. 31, 2001
    Turmoil at the Top

  • Nov. 15, 1998
    Are You Ready for the New Cork?

    Read recent news about closures:

  • Feb. 18, 2004
    New Glass Wine Stopper Hopes to Oust Cork

  • Sept. 9, 2003
    Look Ma, No Corkscrew: Two New Wine Closures Pop Like Cork, With a Twist

  • Aug. 26, 2003
    Beringer Blass to Release Screw Cap-Only Brand

  • July 2, 2003
    British Columbia OKs Screw Caps for Wines

  • May 7, 2003
    Torres Makes a Break With Cork

  • Aug. 15, 2002
    Top South African Producer Pioneers Screw Cap in Cape

  • May 13, 2002
    California's Bonny Doon Commits to Screw Caps on 80,000 Cases

  • May 8, 2002
    Top Oregon Winery Bottles Some 2000 Reds With Screw Caps

  • March 15, 2002
    Australian Wine Giant to Bottle Rieslings With Screw Caps

  • Jan. 29, 2002
    Boutique Zinfandel Producer Tries Out Screw Caps

  • Nov. 13, 2001
    Sonoma-Cutrer Tests Screw Caps on Top Chardonnay

  • Sept. 11, 2001
    Australia's Orlando Wyndham Tries Screw Caps on Rieslings

  • Aug. 29, 2001
    Talking About a Revolution: New Zealand Winemakers Ditch Corkscrews for Screw Caps

  • July 26, 2000
    Riesling Producers in Australia Opt for Screw Caps

  • May 25, 2000
    PlumpJack Puts New Twist on Napa Valley Cabernet
  • Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

    Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
    To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

    WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.