Is there any difference in wine quality or freshness between screwcaps and natural corks?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is there any difference in quality, taste or freshness between a bottle of wine topped with a cork vs. one sealed with a screwcap?

—Kira, San Antonio, Texas

Dear Kira,

There’s definitely no difference in quality. While decades ago screwcaps were typically used for inexpensive wine, in the late 1990s, more producers (including high-end ones) started adopting screwcaps to ensure the quality of their wine. These days they are much more common across a wide range of wine styles and qualities. That’s probably because screwcaps eliminate the concern of dried out, crumbling corks, oxidized wines and TCA taint, which can make a wine taste “corky” or musty and muted.

As far as taste and freshness, screwcaps have a reputation for keeping a wine tasting fresh longer, which makes them a good fit for fruit-forward wines. Some screwcaps are made with calculated levels of “oxygen ingress,” to mimic that of a natural cork, for wines that are meant to age.

I’ve been lucky enough to taste hundreds of wines aged under screwcaps, so I have a lot of confidence in them. I know that corks can be a sentimental favorite among some wine lovers, and they have also become much more reliable in the past decade thanks to improvements in screening technologies. Also, TCA can come from other sources besides natural corks.

Bottom line: The closure on a bottle of a wine doesn’t influence my buying decisions.

—Dr. Vinny

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