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GTWBR: Screw Top Wine

December 13, 2009
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Good Things With Bad Raps.  I like it as an ongoing theme.  So far, we have covered Beaujolais Nouveau and slow cookers.  But today I want to talk about screw tops on wine.

By in large they are very good closures, but many people dislike them.

I think part of the problem is the romance of the cork.  It’s a longstanding tradition in a category that lives and breathes tradition.  Everything from the volume of a wine bottle to its shape to its contents is steeped in tradition.  Breaking from tradition isn’t something that is readily welcome in the wine world.

A cork means needing a corkscrew.  Historically, wielding a corkscrew has required a modicum of skill.  A cork also meant the wine in the bottle was not readily available.  One needed to be a bit patient.  The simple process of removing a cork added a heightened sense of anticipation.

All of this goes away when a wine can be opened with the simple flick of a wrist.

But that’s not entirely bad.  Cork isn’t necessarily the best closure for wine in the first place.  Wine can become tainted from bad corks.  The cork people say this happens in about 1% of wines, but others have found cork taint in up to 7% of bottles.

Not all corks are created equal, either.  If you look very closely at your cork, you will find it falls in one of three categories:
1)    Whole cork
2)    Compressed cork
3)    Compressed cork with glued-on whole-cork ends

What I’m calling compressed cork is really a glued mash of tiny cork bits that have been pressed into a cylindrical shape.  Cork type number 3 is especially tricky, because wineries tend to disguise these corks with clever printing that obscures the glue line between the whole cork end and the compressed cork center.  And in these more deceptive corks, elaborate designs can obscure the compressed center as well.  Look carefully at your cork the next time you open a bottle.

Beyond these problems, corks can crumble and they can leak.

Screw tops don’t have any of these problems.  If anything, they may do their jobs too well and keep so much air out of the bottles that it slows down a wine’s aging potential.  But this is not a concern for most wine drinkers.

In the distant past, only cheap plonk had screw caps.  But this hasn’t been the case for years.  More and more wineries are putting better and better wines in bottles that are sealed with screw tops.  There is no reason for anyone to conjure up images of Night Train, Thunderbird, or Wild Irish Rose anymore.

Sure, some of the romance may be gone.  But with that comes added convenience.  I was recently traveling, and didn’t have a corkscrew with me.  I wanted to bring a bottle of wine back to the hotel to enjoy in the room with Mrs. Fussy.  Luckily Whole Foods had dozens of enticing wines that were sealed with screw caps.

Also, nothing is better to take along on picnics.

Maybe it would be wiser to always travel with a corkscrew.  A while ago I did that, until one day my corkscrew was confiscated by the TSA.

Screw top wine is good wine.  Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Vanessa Gabor permalink
    December 13, 2009 1:06 pm

    I have been on the screwtop bandwagon for about a year or so…just so easy…can’t beat it!

  2. Ellen Whitby permalink
    December 13, 2009 9:31 pm

    The Hangar One raspberry infused vodka I’ve been enjoying has a cork on it with a screw top. It seemed like a screw top until it didn’t screw out in the traditional way and then I pulled a little. Then – POP – out it came. Nice vodka inside. The smell especially.

  3. Tonia permalink
    December 15, 2009 11:31 am

    Well unless you are drinking that old school Taylor Lake Country Red my parents used to drink. ;-)

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