Every week this month, we will be answering your #WednesdayWineQuestions. To send us a question, you can respond to a #WednesdayWineQuestions post on our Facebook page or simply email us here.
Q. How much does a cork versus a screw cap matter in terms of wine quality and longevity? (From A. Malmqvist, via Facebook)
A. (From Ben Grosvenor, head of private and retail sales) What a good question! Lots of variables to consider in answering this. Firstly, I’d like to say that I love both. When reaching for a bottle of fresh fruity white from the fridge, there is nothing more reassuring than a screwcap. It’s easy and almost guaranteed to be free of any fault, such as cork taint. However, there is undeniable pleasure in the theatre and ritual of removing the capsule and ‘popping’ the cork to a bottle you’re excited to open.
As a general rule of thumb the better the quality of the wine, the better the quality of the closure the producer will decide to use, but this could be either cork or screwcap.
For both Corks and Screwcaps, there are good and bad in terms of quality. If we’re talking about the best of both, you can safely say that either can be (and regularly are) used for some of the world’s best and most long lived wines. Recent research has suggested that screwcaps may not provide the level of oxygen interaction required by some red wines built for ageing, but this is ongoing.
European producers, perhaps more traditional with a more traditional clientele, seem to favour natural cork over screwcaps and it is the New World that have experimented more widely over the decades with bottling under screwcap. That is slowly changing though and private experiments with screwcaps by some Bordeaux Chateaux are showing interesting results.
It is also worth noting that more cork is used in cork producing countries such as Spain and Portugal, which between them account for circa 85% of global production
Of course there can be problems with both – from TCA or cork taint in natural corks, a compound which can cause a wine to become ‘corked’ (often smelling of mould and losing its fruit profile), too much oxygenation with synthetic corks (at the much cheaper end of the quality scale) to the simple and obvious issue that is a screw cap is less aesthetically pleasing than a cork.
I would say that unless you’re planning on laying down the wine in question for many, many, years, either are great. And if you are planning on ageing it for many years, trust the producer with the closure they’ve chosen – no one knows their wines better than them.