Aren't screwcaps a sign of lower quality wines?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I’m interested in the movement to replace traditional cork closures with metallic screwcaps. I would like to determine the impact of switching to these cork alternatives, as I am concerned that these non-traditional closures will create the impression that the wine is of a lower quality (and therefore result in reduced sales).

—Ashrina, Dallas

Dear Ashrina,

It’s been more than a dozen years since we started seeing premium wines hit the market with screwcaps. I think that twist-offs are gaining in acceptance as much as they are in popularity—last year, roughly 10 percent of the wines we reviewed were bottled under screwcap. Sure, there’s still some resistance out there—I see it both with newbies who’re worried about the cheap wine stigma and the wine-snob set who tell me that the sound of a popping cork or ritual of pulling out a corkscrew is as important to them as what’s inside the bottle.

I’m pro-twist off, because I’m anti-bad or frustrating wines. Corks can crumble, fail, and cause bottle variation or TCA contamination. I’m also a believer in the ageability of wines under screwcap, but what kind of closure a wine has isn’t by itself going to persuade me or dissuade me from buying it.

I often ask producers who bottle under twist-offs if they see any resistance when it comes to selling their wine, and most of them shrug off the question. Here and there, they report some restaurateur or retailer balking. I hear that folks are OK with buying $15 and $20 bottles with screwcaps, but maybe not the more expensive stuff. Considering that 15 years ago twist-offs were relegated to jug wines, that’s not bad.

Speaking of which, I took a peek into our database, and in the last year, we’ve seen screwcaps topping the bottles of everything from a terrific value $7 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc to a rare, classic Australian sticky that costs $350 (for a half bottle!) and an outstanding $225 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t think any of these wines are suffering in sales because of their closure.

—Dr. Vinny

Closures Screwcaps Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Where can I find recommendations for inexpensive wines that are ready to drink now?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, says that just because a wine CAN age for …

Jul 6, 2021

What’s the difference between white Bordeaux and white Burgundy?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains which grapes are grown in two of France's most …

Jun 28, 2021

What does it mean to say a wine is “dry”? And which wines are driest?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains a commonly misunderstood wine …

Jun 21, 2021

Is it OK for a guest to take back a bottle of wine they brought to a dinner party if the host didn't open it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers etiquette advice for bringing wine to a dinner …

Jun 14, 2021

How do wineries pick the glass color for their wine bottles?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny why some wine bottles are tinted green or amber, while …

Jun 7, 2021

When and how does "palate fatigue" kick in at a wine tasting?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the term "palate fatigue," and what happens to …

May 31, 2021