Tips from the Expert: Ray Jordan on Screw Caps VS Corks


Written by Ray Jordan,


It started as a trickle a few years ago, but very quickly the move by New World winemakers from traditional cork closures to screwcap became a flood.

In Australia and New Zealand, screwcaps closures have just about replaced cork, certainly with white wines, but also largely with reds wines although there are a few exceptions to that rule.

The reality is that more winemakers I speak to these days have become fed-up with the problems caused by faulty corks and have opted for the greater certainty of screw caps.

For the wine producer, moving to a screw cap closure makes sound economic sense. No longer will a significant percentage of the wines be tainted by cork taint of be prematurely oxidized. It can be a very costly business having to replace these wines.

And you the consumer will also be a winner. Sometimes you won’t even know it. Why, you ask? The problem is that a lot of people don’t know that the wine they've paid good money for is corked or cork affected as in the case of probably an even bigger problem – random oxidation.

They might not like it, and probably won’t buy it again, but they won’t realize that it has only been because of a dodgy infected cork that the wine lacks flavour and fruit.

Or the seal might have been inefficient and let air into the wine and so prematurely ageing the wine to the point of excessive oxidation.

Forget about the idea that cork lets the wine breathe – if it does it is almost certainly letting in air (oxygen) to prematurely oxidize the wine.

Wine ages without oxygen and in most cases, there is enough absorbed oxygen in the wine during the winemaking process to allow it to age gradually anyway.

Most people can generally pick up a badly corked wine, but most have trouble picking up those that are slightly corked, where the edge is taken off.

The thing is that if they could taste a wine that was free of cork taint alongside it, they would certainly pick up the difference.

Once you’ve smelt and, if you are game, tasted a badly corked wine you’ll never forget the experience.

The musty, dirty smell of old socks or wet hessian and cardboard is unmistakable. The problem is that a lot of other wines go undetected.

Unless you are really experienced you simply will not pick that a wine is corked. You probably won’t like it, and probably won’t buy it again, when in fact the wine should have been fine.

And if you think cork taint is acceptable, ask yourself if you would accept one in ten cartons of milk at your local supermarket being off.