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Dear Dr. Vinny,
My favorite wine switched from corks to screwcaps. Will that impact the quality?
—Marlene, Washington, D.C.
No, the wine is not compromised by a screwcap. In fact, it’s quite possible the producer made the switch to screwcaps to better ensure the quality of the wine. Even though screwcaps used to be associated with inexpensive wines, more and more wineries are switching to them, and not just for the affordable wines.
I understand there can be an emotional connection to wines bottled under cork. But cork brings with it the possibility of cork taint, when a wine becomes contaminated by TCA (the chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole), which mutes wine's aromas and flavors and can cause it to smell musty or moldy—what’s referred to as a “corked” wine. To be fair, TCA can also come from barrels or other sources of wood, but eliminating corks is one way to battle the problem. Using screwcaps also eliminates the problems of crumbly or otherwise compromised corks, which can lead to oxidized wines.
I’ve been lucky enough to sit through multiple tastings of wines aged under screwcaps, and the results are great. Wines can age under twist-off tops. In fact, the wines can seem to stay fresher longer.
That's not to say that corks are bad. The cork industry has invested millions of dollars in improving the quality and consistency of the product over the past decade, and in our own official Wine Spectator blind tastings, we have found that incidences of cork taint are generally on the decline.
Change is hard, and a new closure can feel like a strange adjustment, but I recommend thinking of your wine purchases based on the wine inside, not the way the wine is sealed.
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