Twist-off caps vs. Corks...

1/31/2017

You may be asking yourself, "Why change the cork?" - something that's been around for centuries or "Why do I care how my wine is sealed?" - wine is wine. Both questions are valid. However, to more and more vintners as well as wine enthusiasts, have raised solid arguments for both sides and it's something to pay attention to.

On one side you have the traditional cork. Reliable, functional, not to mention they've been around and used for sealing wines for as long as we can remember. And while they are all of those things, there are a few downsides and risks of sealing wine with corks. The first is the worry of TCA (trichloranisole) - a natural fungus in the cork that can cause adverse affects on the wine. It's the culprit for wines that have musty, damp, or moldy odors with possibly a vinegar-like flavor - aka wines that are "corked". In less severe cases, low amounts of TCA can be difficult to detect. James Laube, a writer for the Wine Spectator, includes that it can diminish "a wine's expressiveness, muting or dulling its flavors and body," which can cause the wine to be "written off as just simple and boring."

New regulations from Parramon, a Catalonian cork producer, coming into play starting January 2017, states that all corks, yes - 100% of all their corks, sold to the North American wine market will be tested for TCA. Those that contain any TCA will not be included in shipments. "We are the first and only cork company to incorporate the TCA testing of every cork we produce as a standard procedure, not an added option for an added fee," says Francesc Parramon, company owner. The company has created an electronic device that can detect TCA as the corks are made, insuring absolutely no TCA is in the finished product. Additionally, once made, they are sealed in bags in order to diminish the possibility of any hindering environmental factors throughout the shipping process.

The second issue with using natural cork is that it can allow the wine to 'breath' slightly once bottled. Although in some cases this can be an benefit to the finished wine, it also does not ensure a wine will not become oxidized and lose some of its flavor and color.

The newest twist-off craze for sealing wines has more and more vintners turning away from the classic cork. According to Laube, "about 25 percent of the wines submitted for review in 2015 and 2016 were bottled under screw cap." A number that is slowly rising. This is due to the tight seal and drastic reduction in the possibility of their wines becoming "corked". There is also evidence to show the aging process of wines sealed with twist-off caps slows down, thus making it a popular choice for young white wines or wines meant to be drunk early on. Convenience is another added benefit - no corkscrew required!

However, the twist-off top does have some negatives. While its great for reducing the oxidation and TCA from natural corks, it also has an effect on the bottled wine. Twist-off caps can increase sulfur levels - which, if a vintner knows the wine will be sealed with a screw cap, can be controlled and avoided during the winemaking process, prior to bottling. Another downfall of the screw cap is the overall presentation. The 'CRAAAK' of a twisting cap somehow doesn't have the same romantic affect as the 'POP' of a cork.

Moral of the story? Don't judge a wine by its seal! There are benefits to sealing a bottle with both a cork and a twist-off cap but each option comes with their own Achilles heel. BUT, what we really want to know is...will there still be a 'corkage' fee for twist-off caps?



Sources:

Eklund, Daryl. "Parramon to Test Every Cork for TCA." Wine Business.com, 31 Jan. 2017. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Laube, James. "The Twist Goes On." Wine Spectator . N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.