"Dear Karen: What’s your opinion of wines bottled with screw caps vs corks?" Terry S. (Alexandria, VA)
Hi Terry: While the thwock of a cork being removed from a bottle is one of the best sounds I know, the fact is that wrestling with a cork isn’t very much fun. Some might say it’s a small price to pay for tradition, and I get that. But removing a cork requires considerable pulling force, and not everyone has the bicep power to make it easy. Screw caps on the other hand are effortless for everybody, which is why I like them. Yeah, they don’t look as prestigious, but at this point there is no question that screw caps seal wine perfectly well. In fact, sometimes too perfectly. My one worry with screw cap closures is reduction—that is, an initial skunky smell to the wine in the bottle because it’s lacked exposure to a small amount of oxygen. I’m finding this with a lot of screw-capped rosé wines coming on the market right now. That said, not all screw caps are of the same quality, and the better ones do allow for a miniscule amount of oxygen to avoid reduction. (If you do get a “reduced” wine, decant it or swirl it vigorously in the glass and let it sit for a few minutes. Sometimes the off-aroma will go away). Lastly, the original impetus for screw caps came as a result of the high percentage of “corked” wines, (wines ruined by TCA—trichloroanisole, a non-toxic chemical biproduct of sanitizing natural cork with chlorine). In the 1980s, 8 to 10 percent of wines were corked. Today, the percentage of TCA-affected wine is vastly lower—about 1%.