Aren't screwcaps a sign of lower quality wines?

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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

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