And you thought that “The War of the Worlds” was an epic fight between two worlds, human and alien. Well hang on, because a new “war” is brewing between the old world of traditional cork stoppers and the new growing use of the screw cap.
It has always been the mystique of ordering that prestige bottle of wine for dinner, and waiting in anticipation as the Wine Stewart opens the bottle and places the cork in front of you. Do I pick it up, sniff it, or cut into it to search for mold? Everyone watches as you examine the bottle, cork, and swirl, sniff and sip, determining whether it is exactly what you expected, or not.
But today, that is quickly becoming an exception, not a rule, with many wineries throughout the world at least trying the screw cap. Many have started with them on their white wines, but many and I mean some well known, creating some finer wines, are bottling reds as well. Examples of these are seen in the photo, with examples of Sauvignon Blanc from Capitello in New Zealand, Charles Creek in Alexander Valley, California and Abacela in Southern Oregon. In fact, you are hard pressed to find wines from New Zealand that are not sealed with metal screw caps.
I guess what it boils down to, at least in my opinion, is which of the methods will preserve the flavors and condition of that bottle of wine. We all realize cork has it’s issues, and also there has been the plastic synthetic corks which have been found to not completely seal. Anyone who has opened a tainted bottle of wine knows the experience isn’t pleasant, especially when at home, where a replacement isn’t at hand.
I have to say that over the past couple of years, I have on many occasions ordered a screw cap bottle of wine, or pulled one from my wine cellar, and never found a problem with the wine. My only objection is not being able to use my fancy electric cork remover, which I might add, I haven’t tried to use, yet, on metal caps.
During the past few years, there have been wineries worldwide, as well as research facilities at such places as U. C. Davis is Northern California, performing comparative studies. Most of these have found, to the dismay of the “Wine Snob”, that the metal seals eliminate all oxidation issues, and will ensure a taint-free sip, of well aged, high quality wine.
However, will all wines someday have screw caps, and replace the use of cork? Chances are no, at least not in our lifetimes, unless a government agency somewhere decides they are hazardous for our health. Until that time, you will always have the diehards in Europe and yes, the United States, who will demand that cork has always been the traditional way, and will refuse to change.
I doubt that we will ever see a wine list that contains a list of screw cap wines separate from corked wine bottles. It will of course be your choice when brought to your table before opening to send it back if it has a screw cap.
As far as my wine cellar, as well as in a restaurant, or anywhere else, I believe just one thing. If you are ordering a quality wine, from a quality winery, that winemaker has chosen the method for everything involved with that wine, to satisfy you. If he or she has chosen a screw cap for my $200 bottle of Bordeaux, so be it, I’m all in. After all, it’s what’s in your glass that really counts, right?