To Cork or to Screw, the Great Closure Debate

Do you feel screwed if you buy a bottle of nice wine and you didn’t get to pop a cork?

For decades there has been an intense debate within the wine community about whether the cork or the screw closure is best. The screw cap came into existence in the 1970s and was widely perceived as the seal for mass-produced, low-quality wines. Consumers and wine purists alike turned their noses up, instead of down into the glass, at a wine sealed with an aluminum cap. But why did the metal topper come into existence at all and (literally) screw up everything for the unassuming cork?

Simply said, it was because one of the leading wine producers in Australia was just sick and tired of losing innumerable bottles of his precious commodity to “cork taint.” Taint is caused by a compound released by a fungus found in cork, and even a minute amount has the ability to obliterate a wine’s taste and aroma. A tainted wine essentially smells like a musty basement or a wet dog, and it is estimated that up to 3% of cork-sealed wines aquire this affliction.

The solution, for better or worse, is the screw cap. With a screw cap, wines cannot be affected by cork taint, they are are easier to use for the wine drinker, and cost less money for the winemaker. However, every solution has its drawbacks and for the crew cap it is the environmental impact of the non-biodegradable metal, and the inability to allow a wine to age properly given its air-tight seal.

So what about cork? Cork has been the preferred wine closure for hundreds of years for a reason! It is made from the bark of the cork oak tree which is grown primarily in Portugal and Spain. One tree’s bark can provide enough cork for thousands of bottles. The material is a renewable, sustainable and biodegradable which makes it the most environmentally friendly bottle closure. Additionally, microscopic pores allow minute amounts of air to contact the wine which is key for proper aging, something an aluminum screw top is incapable of. There’s also the argument of ceremony and tradition – popping a cork is simply more romantic. Like the screw cap, cork has its share of drawbacks – the quality is variable, the material can be fragile and the cost is up to three times more than a screw cap.

Clearly, the bottle closure is essential to protect the wine. Ultimately, both cork and screw are acceptable and can live harmoniously in the world of wine. At Uva, we are a no-judgment zone in terms of bottle toppers. In the end, it’s really about the quality of the precious liquid in the bottle. Cheers!