Going to open a bottle of wine and finding a silicone stopper or screw cap would’ve been surprising five years ago. By now it is quite common depending on the type of wine, especially when we’re dealing with young reds and whites.
So…where would we find them? Silicone stoppers are suitable for wines that are drunk young. They hermetically seal the wine and prevent oxygen from entering the bottle. This makes them ideal for wines that aren’t meant to evolve and should be consumed within two years of bottling.
Silicone stoppers cause the wine to oxidize more rapidly in addition to absorbing some of the aroma and slightly diminishing the aromatic intensity.
Silicone stoppers are made from different plastic and silicone polymers. Manufacturing costs are lower, and they allow for more striking designs through the use of different colors. They came about as a solution to TCA (cork taint), but even now they’re not an absolute guarantee against the compound (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) that causes the odor or flavor.
We also frequently come across screw caps. Much like silicone stoppers, they’re used for young wines designed for immediate consumption. That being said, there are always exceptions. Depending on their lining, some screw caps on the market do allow for different levels of permeability, which makes it possible to use them on certain cellar-worthy wines.
In the hospitality sector, the screw cap is very practical, because staff can serve wine by the glass and then reseal the bottle as often as necessary. However, it completely eliminates the ritual of uncorking a bottle, which many consumers hold dear. Furthermore, screw caps are not apt for wines with reductive tendencies, because the seal is more airtight.
The introduction and use of these types of closures (screw cap and silicone) was largely thanks to wine producers in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These Anglo-influenced countries are relative newcomers to the global wine industry and decided to forego the use of corks. Spain, Portugal and France, which are all cork-producing countries, still prefer the traditional cork.
Cork for cellar-worthy wines
A traditional cork allows the wine to evolve in the bottle. This is why cork is suitable for cellar-worthy wines, which one hopes will improve over time. During this stage, the wine needs a bit of oxygen to evolve, which is why closing the bottles with a cork is essential. This allows the wine to refine its tannins, improve its aromas and shed some of its astringency to gain complexity and nuances.
There’s no accounting for taste, but it is true that the vast majority of consumers expect to find a traditional cork when they open a bottle. It’s part of the ritual. Removing the foil, driving the corkscrew in as deep and straight as possible, then slowly starting to pull…and examining and smelling the cork once it emerges with its characteristic “pop.”
If you don’t notice anything strange, the wine is good and ready to greet your palate. Should we give it a try with one of our wines?