Screw Cap Or Cork?
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Screw Cap Or Cork?
With an ever increasing number of winemakers using screw caps, the debate over whether or not to carry on using cork continues.
Cork has been used for over 400 years, and many winemakers today still believe that in order to age well, wine needs gradual exposure to oxygen. Advocates of screw caps, on the other hand, argue that most changes that occur in winemaking don’t require oxygen.
Alpha Domus wine expert, Paul Ham, says he uses a mixture of corks and screw caps, as both closures have positive and negative sides.
“It depends entirely upon the wine and how the winemaker feels it needs to age,” says Paul.
“Because it helps the wine to breathe, we mainly use cork on bigger, fuller bodied wines that need oxygen throughout the aging process.”
Paul uses the best cork available in Alpha Domus’ Aviator, Noble Semillon and Navigator wines, but says there are disadvantages to using cork as a closure method.
“In a very small number of cases, cork taint can ruin what might have been very good bottle of wine,” Paul says.
The main cause of cork taint is TCA (or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole for those who did chemistry at school). The chemical produces unappealing smells or tastes, which can only be detected after bottling, ageing and opening. With this in mind, Paul uses screw caps to seal many Alpha Domus’ wines.
“The advantages of screw caps are the lower cost, and the piece of mind they give, knowing that you won’t have to deal with cork taint,” Paul says.
“Many white wines will also age slower under a screw cap. Our Barrique Fermented Chardonnay, for example, will age much more slowly, which means it can be stored for longer without showing signs of bottle age.”
Nevertheless, all is not lost for the cork. The Diam cork, a new development, is a conglomerate cork which has been stripped of the chemical that causes cork taint (TCA) and guarantees freedom from producing a ‘corked’ bottle of wine.
With this development, Paul thinks there is still a future for the cork in winemaking.
“I keep hearing that New Zealand has seen the fastest uptake of screw caps. However, after the initial flurry, more winemakers are coming back to cork products.
“With the Diam cork ensuring winemakers can give their customers the satisfaction of no cork taint when buying wines, we may well see a comeback for the cork before too long!”