Cork versus screw caps for wine bottles: the debate rages on

Cork versus screw caps for wine bottles: the debate rages on

While there is an undeniable romance to opening a bottle of wine sealed with natural cork, more and more wineries around the world are switching to screw caps or plastic corks due to cost concerns and the now-infamous problem of cork taint. As demand for cork subsides, the cork industry is engaging in some heavy PR to get everyone buying its stuff again.

I Love Natural Cork, a new and not-so-subtly-named campaign from the U.K., is playing the Al Gore card: not only is cork the superior wine closure, but the harvesting of cork is a green, sustainable practice that supports ancient ecosystems. Apparently it’s a renewable and recyclable product.

But other sources estimate that cork taint—where a bottle is spoiled by contaminants within the cork—sits at an unacceptable five per cent. That’s one in 20 bottles ruined by natural cork, which doesn’t sound sustainable at all. Toronto sommelier Zoltan Szabo likens it to a car or TV set that’s defective from the get-go.

Not all wine experts are convinced that natural cork is the best way to seal wine. Szabo, for one, calls screw caps “slick and practical, perfect especially for young, fresh-style wines.” Tony Aspler, a Toronto sommelier and author of Tony Aspler’s Cellar Book, tells us that most wine should be sealed with a screw cap due to the hermetic seal it provides. “Ninety per cent of wines made around the world today are for consumption within a year of their vintage date,” he says. “These wines should be under screw cap.” However, he adds that wines that will be cellared for five years or more should have cork closures, as cork contains microscopic air pockets that feed oxygen to the wine, helping the maturation process.

Still, while I Love Natural Cork apparently has the backing of the illustrious Prince Charles, Aspler isn’t betting on the continued dominance of cork. “I would not invest in shares of a company that produces corkscrews,” he says.

We’ve already called our portfolio manager.

Campaign promotes wine corks over screw caps [Toronto Sun]

(Image: Rennett Stowe)