Cork vs screw cap, which one is better?

Photo by John Murzaku on Unsplash

You are in the shop trying to decide between two bottles of wine. One has a screw cap, and the other has a cork, the price is the same which one should you buy?

Cork

Cork comes from the bark of an oak tree called Quercus suber. These trees have to be at least 15years old for the bark to be ready to harvest. It takes another ten years for bark to grow back. Fifty to sixty per cent of these trees are growing in Spain and Portugal. 

Once you harvest the bark, you need to dry it before you can cut out the cork. Then you boil the corks to disinfect, clean and soften the cork. Then you manually sort the corks based on their quality. The ideal cork allows less than one milligram of oxygen to enter the bottle every year. The top quality corks could cost as much as 1Euro. 

The advantages of cork:

  • The wine will age in the bottle
  • It’s environmentally friendly and renewable
  • It looks nice

The disadvantage of cork:

  • It is expensive
  • The source of it is limited
  • It can damage the wine with cork taint (it’s much less common then it used to be)
  • The wine bottle has to be in horizontal position, if you want the wine to age. The cork has to be kept moist, so it doesn’t dry out, and the wine doesn’t get spoiled

Screw cap

The screw cap is usually made of aluminium. Screw caps were widely adopted in the 1980s by Swiss winemakers. Since then the popularity of screw cap is rising. The most significant adoption is in Australia and New Zeland industry. But the rest of the wine world is catching up. 

The advantages of screw-cap:

  • It’s cheap
  • It’s easy to open and close
  • It’s relatively easy to produce
  • You can leave the wine in the fridge in a vertical position without spoiling it

The disadvantage of screw cap:

  • It doesn’t allow the wine to age in the bottle in a way the cork does
  • It doesn’t look that nice
  • It has a very brief history of use, so we don’t know how the wine will react after using it for a long time

The rest

There are other different ways how you can seal the bottle of wine. There are plant-based polymers and plastics “corks”, or there is a technology called Vinolok, which is made of glass.

How do you feel about the choice now? Do you still think that the wine with cork top is better? 

Let’s think about it. So the wine has the same price. But one winemaker spent less money on the seal, so the wine is more affordable. It might or might not mean that the wine is better. The definitive answer lies on the label. For example, Domaine Laroche in Chablis has been bottling its Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru under screw caps since 2001 vintage.

French wine from Chablis that is Grand Cru, which means the highest possible quality, and has a screw cap, now that will make you think 🙂

Are there any “wine myths” that you know about or would like to see if it’s true. Drop me an email. I will try to answer it.

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