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The Cork Debate Continues

Last year, Winostuff’s Wino Bob provided our visitors with an exhaustive study of the debate between cork and plastic stoppers among wine producers.  As you may recall, somewhere between 3-6% of all wines bottled with natural corks spoil prematurely due to issues with the chemical reaction of bacteria on natural corks (known as cork taint or TCA).

Evidently, Wino Bob’s debate fueled the fire because I’ve read two articles in recent editions of Wine Enthusiast and the Wine Spectator.  The authors of both articles cite an initiative in New Zealand whereby 28 wine producers have banded together to form the New Zealand Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative.  According to a spokesperson for the group, screwcaps have been proven and reliable for sealing wine for the last 20 years.  Evidently, the UK wine importers of New Zealand’s winecap wineries are readily embracing this type of wine seal, but US importers are not.

At the same time that New Zealand producers are embracing screwcaps, the Australian Wine Research Institute found that screwtop-sealed bottles retain the greatest percentage of carbon dioxide of any wine bottle sealing methodology.  What that means is that the lovely odor of rotten eggs (remember high school chemistry) wafts out of your Lafite Rothschild upon opening, but…blows off quickly into the atmosphere.  More importantly, the Australian research questions whether or not the airtight seal provided by screwcaps would affect wine aging, a question that could take years to answer.

Before our Wino Bob chimes in on this debate again, I’ll provide a comment or two.  While screwcaps may be successful in that beer pub dominated society in the UK (and I’m sure I’ll here about that comment from UK Winos), the US consumer associates screwcaps with products like Boone’s Farm, Ripple, and Annie Greenspring.  Sutter Home White Zinfandel was bottled many years ago with a screwcap enclosure and their marketing people determined a change was necessary in order to improve sales.  I can’t think of anyone I know, male or female, who would think of buying wine for their spouse, date, or significant other and would choose a screwcap sealed bottle.  If you disagree, let me know.  Wino Bob, your thoughts?

 January 11, 2002

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