The cork has nearly disappeared from Australia’s domestically produced – and broadly exported – wines. In California, screw caps are no longer reserved for jug wines: The $155-a-bottle Plumpjack Reserve Cabernet is a twist-off. Even France, the country most reluctant to abandon a corky tradition, is flirting with alternatives. Earlier this year, Maison Jean-Claude Boisset became the first to do away with corks on a grand cru red burgundy, sealing half its $200-a-bottle 2005 Chambertin with screw caps.
Experts cite tricholoanisole (TCA, or the chemical that causes a wine to become “corked”) as the primary reason producers are shifting to other methods of closure. However, screwcaps are not without their own problems. Corks allow very small amounts of oxygen into the wine. A screwcap can seal the bottle so tightly that no oxygen can get in, and that might cause a problem called “reduction.” Whereas a bottle of “corked” wine has a distinct, moldly, off-putting smell, a bottle of wine sealed by a screwcap might eventually put off a smell of sulfur – equally unappealing our book.
We doubt the question of which is the better closure will be answered anytime soon. But we suppose we should start perfecting my method of removing wine labels, just in case corks become a rare commodity. For now we are corking bottles of Happy Hour Cellars.
What are your thoughts on this debate? Let us know in the comments section below.