Possibly the biggest development in wine culture recently has surrounded the choice of wine bottle closure. For centuries, cork was king but, in recent years, there has been growing support for using screw caps, or Stelvin closures, instead.
Local wine expert Natalie le Senechal, of Les Grands Vins de France sees a lot of merit in screw caps.
“If I’m looking for a ‘beach wine’ as I call it, I won’t mind a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a screw cap,” she pointed out. “The wine keeps its freshness longer. On the practical side, who hasn’t arrived at the beach and forgot to bring a corkscrew?”
It wasn’t that long ago that screw caps were associated with inferior wines. That reality has changed with some of the world’s top wineries using screw caps for their premium bottles. Furthermore, there’s more democracy in wine production today, with quality wines available for all budgets. Cork is a more expensive closure, so it makes sense that Stelvins would be used for more inexpensive bottles.
Scientific studies have backed up the case for screw caps, with wines under caps retaining freshness for longer periods. Cork-topped wines often fall victim to “cork taint”, a chemical reaction that results in a musty smell and taste many liken to wet cardboard.
For proper aging, wines need to be able to breathe and the porosity of cork allows this naturally. For the most expensive bottles, this is a necessity. The reality, though, is that most wines (even some reds) are consumed fairly soon after production, so screw caps simply make sense for most wines.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to disagree that there is a certain je ne sais quoi about the ritual that produces the signature ‘creak and pop’. It’s an experience that screw caps simply cannot replicate.
For Natalie, though, only one thing matters: “I’m still making my wine purchases based on the juice inside, not the way the wine is topped.”