Screw caps face an interesting paradox in Spain: While more and more wineries are turning to this kind of closure for their wines, consumers still have their qualms about buying a bottle of wine with a cap instead of a cork. This is due to the fact that most of us associate wines that have corks with higher quality wines.
The interesting thing is that although this idea of cork/quality relationship is particularly widespread in Spain, many other countries have switched to screw caps and the changeover has been a smooth one. This is the case in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and England, where it’s easy to find screw caps on the vast majority of prestigious wines in the supermarket, even those made by the main Spanish wineries.
As you can see, it is possible to find topnotch screw-cap wines. However, we know that it’s not just the quality of the grapes – which will be determined by the weather or the health condition of the vines – and the winery’s production process that are key in determining the quality of the wine. Materials such as the barrels, the bottles, and also the closures, all play a fundamental role as well.
There are those who stick up for the screw cap when confronted with the history and tradition of cork closures, citing its 40-year track record and versatility, given the fact that when the aluminum caps began to be marketed, they soon made the leap from wine to other beverages that also found them to be the perfect solution. But this isn’t the only argument in favor that stands out. There’s also the fact that they’re convenient and safe, as well as the aesthetics.
That said, this doesn’t mean that screw caps are ideal for every kind of wine. We’re specifically thinking about wines that need to rest and mature in the bottle, where the cork forms an essential element. This is because the cork encourages micro-oxygenation; in other words, it allows a minimal amount of oxygen to penetrate, which means a decrease in tannins and astringency.
There are also those who are staunch defenders of the cork closure, too. The arguments in favor include sustainability – it is an ecological, natural, renewable, and recyclable product – and tradition – corks are part of the ritual of drinking wine, and that added value is difficult to replace.
On the other hand, 100% natural corks can lead to the presence of TCA. Known as cork taint, this is a wine fault that’s fungal in origin, and even in low concentrations – 3 ng/L – it can completely ruin a wine by giving it a damp, moldy odor. Nowadays, both the cork industry and the most cutting-edge wineries are making significant efforts to prevent and avoid cork taint. In addition, to ensure that the levels of this contaminant don’t end up spoiling the wine, it’s recommended to analyze the different premises and atmospheric monitoring.
In any case, what we need to keep in mind is that it’s not about pitting screw caps against cork closures – or vice versa – but instead choosing the closure that’s most appropriate for each situation and each type of wine.