The next time you attend a fancy dinner party, I dare you to take along a bottle of wine with a screw cap. Then watch the reaction of your host, hostess and anyone nearby who has noticed your bold act.
The surprising truth is that whether it’s an inexpensive bottle of chardonnay or a cult wine from Napa Valley, these days you can find it sealed with a screw cap.
Even the old standby “Natural Cork” has added siblings so that most of us barely recognize what kind of cork seals our favorite wine.
Natural Wine Corks
Wine corks are made from the outer bark of cork oak trees. The cork bark is expertly ‘stripped’ off allowing new bark to grow in its place without killing or damaging the trees. Interestingly, only cork harvested from the Mediterranean region is of a quality suitable enough for the production of natural wine corks. Portugal, Spain, southern France, Italy, and North Africa make up the worlds main cork oak forest. Natural wine corks are “punched” from specially selected corkwood, carefully inspected for flaws, washed, sterilized, and printed or fire branded.
Twin Disk Corks
These corks are made of pulverized and reconstituted cork remnants and are laminated with natural cork disks at each end. Their density is consistent which makes them a suitable sealing stopper for wine.
Pore Filled Natural Wine Corks (also known as Colmated Corks)
The pores in natural wine corks are filled and sealed with a mixture of fine cork grains and resins.
These are made by pressing together reconstituted cork fragments. They are manufactured from clean natural cork grain.
Synthetic Wine Corks
These popular stoppers are produced when a foam core is enclosed by a uniform skin that has the right touch of compressibility and memory. This combination provides a proper seal and eliminates the possibility of leaks.
Screw cap closures have an aluminum alloy casing as an outer layer with an expanded polyethylene liner. As the cap is compressed, the polyethylene liner compresses and creates an airtight seal. Any oxygen that is needed has been trapped in the bottle’s neck to help the wine mature with grace and character. Although the biggest push toward screw caps seems to have come from France, Australia and New Zealand, many California wineries are beginning to follow the trend.
The reluctance for many to accept screw caps seems to point to “tradition.” The fight with the corkscrew, the sound of the “pop” and studying the cork is part of the enjoyment of wine. Experts however, find that the elimination of “corked” wine is a practical reason to switch.
What is Corked Wine or Cork Taint?
Natural cork is susceptible to a mould that causes the cork to emit a foul smelling odour. When chlorine comes into contact with a mould that randomly grows on the bark of cork oak trees cork taint can result. It can happen during the bleaching or washing process as well as when air or rainwater has been allowed contact an affected cork. However, today’s sophisticated sterilization and sanitation procedures during manufacturing as well as appropriate surface coatings are eliminating most contaminants in high quality corks.
Many people equate wines with screw caps as being jug wine—inferior, lower quality, and not for aging. However, judging from the number of high-end wineries that are giving up the noble cork, your screw cap wine bottle at dinner parties may not raise a single eyebrow in years to come.
Tip: To easily open a screw top on a wine bottle, turn the label part clockwise with one hand while holding the cap firmly with the other.
By Natasha Morgan of NotJusttheKitchen