December 3, 2012

A MadCAP Debate: Cork vs. Screwtop Capped Wines

The debate over whether wineries should be using screw-top caps or remain using cork (or a cork substitute plug) rages on, with cork lovers clinging tight to the tradition and ceremony of popping a cork and the new guard claiming that screw caps are better preservers and more functional.

Though a traditional kind of girl in many aspects of my life, I'm a huge proponent of screw-top wines.  I love the elegance of a cork, and save pretty much every cork that I come across--I hope to create an actual cork board one day as both art, a scrapbook of all the wines I've enjoyed, and function, too.  But that's pretty much where my love for corks end.
See, corks are pretty! But that's about it.
I remember one sad Christmas when my father opened up what was to be "an amazing bottle of wine,"  only to discover that it had been beset with cork taint--from the second the wine hit the glass, we could smell the pungent, sour aroma that indicated that unfortunately, this wine had become an expensive vinegar.

A few years ago, I walked past my wine rack to discover a small dried puddle of red liquid on the ground. Wuh-oh.  After thoroughly examining all the wines on that rack, I determined that it was, of course, one of the most expensive bottles I owned.  And it was a Wednesday night.  Out of fear that it didn't have much time, that wine got drunk that night, without the dinner party I hoped to accompany it.

Yes, a good wine fridge can help with some of the issues of cork wine storage, regulating the temperature so the cork doesn't contract and expand when the the weather changes overnight, or you turn the heater on, or something.

But that doesn't solve the problem that wine isn't even being corked with real cork anymore.  Cork is in limited supply, guys.  And the plastic replacements aren't that much more environmentally friendly either!

I get so excited when a wine I like is sold with screw top caps, but unfortunately, those moments are rare.  You often find it in some lower-end wine, which is funny, because most of the $5 bottles of wine aren't exactly being sold to store in a cellar!  One of my favorite wineries, Sobon, uses screwtops on all the recent bottles I've drunk. Probably the most high-profile winery in the US to use screw tops (but only on SOME wines!) is PlumpJack.

The movement is taking hold somewhat Europe and in New Zealand, but is struggling stateside.  Screwtops have gathered great press.  So what do we do?

Well, for one: vote with our dollars.  If you like the idea of better preserved and more environmentally friendly bottling methods, then go with those brands!  I would love my electric cork remover to become a thing of the past, so I make sure to buy an extra bottle of a wine with a screw top (when I'm feeling flush) just to show my support.

Otherwise, it's hard to say.  It's not like I can call my congressman about wine (or maybe I can?)  Either way, it's worth keeping this debate alive.  It would be a great step towards preserving our wine, making it more green, and de-stuffifying the whole process.

For more info, this is a fairly recent article from HuffPo.

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