Screw Cap vs. Cork
Sometimes I imagine that romantic scenario; in my kitchen with the stove sizzling, the aromas of sauteed garlic, maybe a roasting chicken in the oven, all deliciously smothering the air, arousing appetites and doing its part in creating that sweet domestic scene . My boyfriend admires my prowess as I gracefully move from one task to the next. Dishes simmer to their perfect temperatures as I finish the last bits garnish for the entree. Then, it's time to open the wine. With one hand I reach for the foil cutter and corkscrew, an elaborate piece that matches my wine set, and with the other I show him the label, to which he appropriately admires. Then, as I'm all set to open it with a smooth flourish, another small but noticeable act of competent grace, it's a damn screw cap. Annoyed, I hand it over to him like it were a pickle jar.
As do many oenophiles, I see uncorking as part of the ritual, a lead-up to the tasting. It's been around since ancient times so why change it? With the increase of substandard corks for the growing vineyards and demand, 'corked wines' (wines that are bottled with a contaminated cork) have been on the rise to as much as 8% for some wines. In a business climate that demands consistent quality, the trend to switch to screw caps or synthetic corks is more prevalent, especially in the New World wineries. And while many wineries are compromising with a mixture of both, I still see the eventual phasing out of cork as a prominent closure solution. As with many traditions, I see this one fading due to economy, ease, and demand.
There are advantages to screw caps, as my boyfriend reminds me. Aside from keeping an extremely tight seal versus the cork, they do prevent that TCA infection, but at what cost? TCA infection sounds worse than it is in relation to wine. It doesn’t provide a health risk from the levels affecting the wine. It impairs the flavor and aroma of the wine. Anyways, he has no problems with screw tops but this isn’t the case for me.
I guess for me is the association with screw cap wine. I think of my friend, who drinks one of those $10 a gallon screw top jug wines from a water glass while he reads his W. Somerset Maugham novels. He laughs at me when I make my point about the tradition of corks and how it enhances the experience. I understand that in today’s day screw top wine shouldn’t be perceived as a lesser wine; well maybe in my friend’s case.
Sean was just in Oregon and sipped on many great Oregon wines served with screw tops. I guess I’ll be one of those late adopters to the topic of screw top versus cork. I understand the potential decrease of corked wines by the use of screw tops. It's not only that, I collect the corks. They look nice in decorative cork cages in my kitchen, or I use them for cork art projects.
Over the past few years, a number of wineries have made the switch, or as I've mentioned, offered both, and it'll be interesting to see how this affects the quality as well as their sales. I just hope corks aren't limited to expensive wines. While it won't be impossible to get one for those romantic, special occasions, my cork art will suffer.