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Corks VS Screw Caps: Which is best for your wine?

Since screw cap wines have entered the market place there has been a general perception that they the corks poor cousin, often associated with poor or cheap wine, but this argument might not be as black and white as it seems.  Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both before deciding whether or not to completely write-off the humble screw cap.

Corks

Corks are the tried and trusted method of closing wine; they have been since the beginning of modern Europe in the 1400’s. This is because cork bark is one of the few natural products that can be shaped to hold the content of the wine inside a glass bottle. It was during this period that glass bottle storage became popular, making them a perfect match.

Key facts (Pros):

  • Corks come from a natural, renewable source
  • Corks are proven to last over a long term ageing period
  • They are the historically preferred option with a better reputation

 Key facts (Cons):

  • Corks are 2/3 times more expensive to produce than screw caps
  • 1-3% are affected by TCA ‘Cork’ taint
  • They are a rather limited natural resource
  • Natural corks breathe to variable rates making it difficult to guarantee how they will age.

Screw caps

Screw caps have only been used for wine since 1964, but they have rapidly started to gain their own share of the market. Australian wines in particular often use screw caps on nearly all of their bottles. The reason cork alternatives have became so popular is because of a period of decreased quality cork manufacturing during the 1980’s. Basically, winemakers were tired of getting low quality corks that would cause TCA ‘cork’ taint, so they switched.  Today you can buy screw caps with calculated levels of ‘oxygen ingress’ overtime. 

Key facts (Pros):

  • Screw caps are more cost effective
  • No risk of TCA ‘cork taint’
  • Long term ageing studies have provided positive results
  • They are easier to open

Key facts (Cons):

  • Some screw caps do not allow the wine to breathe properly
  • They are made from non-renewable resources
  • They are recyclable but not biodegradable
  • They are often associated with cheap wine.

Of course, this is not to say that one is better than the other. Most high value wines still use corks, but it is important to know the facts surrounding both for when you’re buying wine both for investment and non-investment purposes.

 



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