Tag Archives: screw caps for wine

What’s a “Corked” Wine?

After last week’s post on where corks come from, Jan wrote in to ask what it means when someone says the wine is corked. Here’s a brief explanation:

I should add that cork taint is an equal opportunity problem and can afflict everything from two-buck Chuck to Chateau Sticker Shock!

Jan’s question leads us to another one: What kind of seal will be the most common 25 years from now? Anyone want to place a bet?

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Where Do Corks Come From?

Bill wrote in to ask where corks come from. Cork is a type of oak and the biggest supplier is Portugal. More here:

You might like to know that natural cork is by far the best choice, environmentally. In fact environmentalists are quite concerned about the trend toward alternatives because the cork forests are habitat for endangered species.

It seems to me I’ve been pulling out very few bad corks over the last few years. Do you agree?How do you feel about the alternatives? Let me know! 

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Is There a Cork Shortage?

There’s this persistent rumor going round that there’s a cork shortage. Any truth to it? Nope. 

I feel like I’m pulling far fewer bad corks out of bottles over the past few years. How about you? And, how do you feel about the alternatives? 

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Are Screw Caps Better than Corks?

Wine-opening-3

Question from Josh: I overheard a server in a wine bar say that screw caps are better than corks. Is that really true?

Reply: Hi, Josh. Thanks for writing. Things have changed so rapidly in the world of wine closures that it’s hard for anyone to keep up! It used to be so simple. Quality wines were finished with natural cork. Any other sort of seal was meant for the cheap stuff.

I’m afraid the best short answer to your question is “I’m not sure.” The thing is, it depends upon the situation.

For wines meant for early drinking, which is most of the world’s wine, I think it’s safe to say that the screw cap is the best choice. That is, in terms of function.

There’s no getting away from the emotional reaction. Surveys show that people are more accepting of screw caps than they used to be, but there are still a lot of folks who just don’t like them. I have to admit that the crack of the screwcap coming off can’t compete with the subtle “pop” of the cork coming out of the bottle when it comes to romance.  

But functionally, they keep the wine fresher longer that a traditional cork. And, that applies to almost all white and rosé wine and even a lot of reds.

That’s great news because with a screw cap there’s zero risk of cork taint – you know – that musty, moldy smell that reminds you of your grandmother’s basement.  They’re also great when you’re on a picnic and forgot you corkscrew!

For wines that are meant for bottle aging – and these are mainly high quality, full-bodied reds and high-end dessert wines – the jury is still out. We’re not sure what to expect over the long term. Continue reading

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What is “Corked” Wine?

Question from Bill: Hi! What is corked wine?

Reply: Hi, Bill. Thanks for writing! With the popularity of plastic corks and screw caps you might well think that when someone says “This wine is corked” it means that it has a real cork in it! But, no…

When the wine is “corked” it means that it’s got a dank, moldy aroma like a stack of wet newspapers or a damp basement. Yuck! Fortunately, it’s not harmful. Unfortunately, it stinks! At low levels it dulls the fruit character. At high levels it’s extremely offensive! And, human detection is measured in the parts per trillion – this is potent stuff! If you hear a reference to “cork taint”, its the same thing.

There are other sources, but the most common reason for this off character is a compound called 2,4,6 tricholoranisole (TCA for short). We now know that TCA can come from other wooden surfaces (natural cork is bark of the cork-oak tree)  like a barrel or a picking box. Wineries have been known to remodel if they have any wooden surfaces in the actual production area because if you get the right naturally-occurring airborne fungi together with chlorine (very common in wineries; in the past they used chlorine to purify natural cork, but that’s been replaced by hydrogen peroxide) it’s a nice recipe for producing TCA. Continue reading

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