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Customers will sometimes recoil from a delightful bottle of wine simply because it is has a screw cap closure rather than a cork. In such instances, one might think I am pointing a high-voltage stun gun in their direction.
Sometimes, this violent reaction is triggered by the common misconception that all wines with a screw cap closure are of inferior quality. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The cork vs. alternate wine bottle closures debate raises a number of issues:
• The problem of cork taint (the musty smell and taste that can ruin a bottle of wine), which is said to affect anywhere from 1% to 10% of all wine bottles sealed with cork.
• The cork industry’s centuries-long monopoly on wine closures and its subsequent lethargic response to finding a solution to the taint complaint.
• The wisdom of using alternate bottle closures (especially screw caps) for wines destined for long-term aging.
Wine industry professionals are not the only ones weighing in. Some environmentalists would have us believe that consumers who purchase wines with alternate closures are contributing to the eventual extinction of certain endangered critters that dwell in ancient cork forests. Do I need this kind of guilt when I am relaxing with my glass of wine?
For a hilarious response to this argument check out a post on the popular wine blog, Vinography, titled Put a Cork in it: Screw cap Wine Closures Are Not Endangering Animals!
While most experts agree that no closure is perfect, a screw cap is a great alternative for wines that are not intended for long-term aging—that is to say the vast majority of wines released onto the market.
Yet, no matter what the facts are, some wine drinkers prefer cork because of its history and tradition. They love the gentle sound it makes as it leaves the bottle. It reminds them of a simpler time. Often these customers are Old World wine drinkers. I don’t have the heart to tell them that it was the French who invented the screw cap!
A 25-year veteran of the wine and hospitality industry, George Staikos is known for his role as an educator, sharing his passion for wine appreciation. He is the founder and president of the Educated Grape, a company specializing in interactive education programs and in-home wine entertaining for wine enthusiasts and companies. He is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s International School of Hospitality Management, where he teaches “Introduction to the Study of Wine.” He is also Vice Echanson or regional wine director for the mid-Atlantic region for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a worldwide food-and-wine organization.
Staikos is a graduate of Florida International University in Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. He is married with three children and lives in Flemington.