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Screw Top - Rant

Okay, here is something that is bothering me and I figured this was a good forum to vent and get some opinions.

I belong to a wine mailing list where the wines offered run between $30-$75 a bottle. This is a rather small winery. When I started buying wine from them years ago they were using traditional cork stoppers and foil. As of last year they moved exclusively to the screw top on all their wines

The problem I have is I like to eat out fairly regularly and will often bring wines that I have purchased and cellared for 5-10 years out to dinner. I feel like I can not bring a screw top wine to a restaurant. In addition, if I went over to someone's house for dinner and was to bring a bottle of wine I would not want to bring a screw top wine.

I am a little annoyed that this winery went to screw top. I understand the flaws of natural cork but I am willing to live with them. If a winery insists on not using natural cork then I would prefer a synthetic cork with a foil . I have a big problem paying good money for a screw top wine. I like the ceremony of cutting the foil, and pulling the cork. The snap of a screw top just doesn't cut it.

Should I tell the winery my feelings and mention I will no longer purchase their wine due to the screw top?

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  1. Please tell us the winery.

    As much as the tradition of opening a bottle of wine fitted with cork adds to the experience, the real enjoyment comes from what's in the bottle. Add the great company, good food and stemware you're in a delightful place, to be sure. Opening the cork or screw top is literally a passing moment that's quickly forgotten.

    I'm glad some great producers of not-cheap wines are using screw tops. Especially small producers that may want the security of knowing none of their bottles will ever be "corked."

    Nowadays there's no need for screw top wines to have any stigma. When members of my wine group with 3,000 - 8,000 bottle cellars bring a bottle of Two Hands with a screw top everyone is happy.

    1. I don't mind the screw tops and I think we'll get used to them. Why should a cork be so special? I can buy wine with corks at many gas stations.

      1. Scott -

        If the screw top closure really bothers you, then I would say you should stop buying the wine. On the other hand, a lot of good wine comes in screw top bottles nowadays, and you will be cutting yourself off from these wines. However, if it is really important to you, there are still thousands of good wines with corks. Personally, I am indifferent to natural cork versus screw top closures regardless of the price of the wine. In general, out of all of the wines that I have opened, relatively few have been damaged by a cork closure. I have no experience where I think an otherwise good wine was spoiled by a screw top. As george2 said, good wine, good friends and good food are the three most important parts of the experience for me. I do not hesitate to bring a screw top wine to a friends house if I think it is good wine. I actually prefer the screw caps to the synthetic corks, as I find the synthetics to be more dificult to remove with standard corkscrews (and harder on the corkscrew.) I will admit that I still like the concept of popping a cork on Champagne or sparkling wine.

        I think some of the negative feelings surrounding screw tops dates back to the time when most screw top wines were lower quality jug wines or "Ripple". I am not suggesting that this is your case, I think I understand that you like the "ceremony" of the cork, etc. I have experienced this ceremony quite a bit, so I am probably less impressed by it than I was years ago. I have also had my fair share of opportunities to help a struggling young waiter or waitress remove the cork from a bottle. At home, we make no ceremony over the cork, we just open the bottles and enjoy the wine.

        22 Replies
        1. re: scrappydog

          I do like the ceremony but to some extent there is a negative connotation in my mind to the screw top as "cheapening" the wine. I think there is a similar feeling towards box wine. Would you bring a "high-end" box of wine to a restaurant if it existed?

          What if one of your favorite wines started to come in 750ml cans? Would you be happy to bring a can of wine out to dinner?

          If you were a brie lover would you be happy if they started packing it in an aerosol can because it would keep longer?

          Also, I am still not convinced that wine ages the same way with a synthetic cork or screw top as it does with a natural cork.

          1. re: Scott M

            «I am still not convinced that wine ages the same way with a synthetic cork or screw top as it does with a natural cork.»

            If a screwcapped wine has been properly bottled, it ages exactly the same way only somewhat more slowly and with nearly no risk of premature oxidation or cork taint. The argument that trans-stopper air exchange is key to graceful aging is essentially bogus; the amount that does occur in cork-stoppered bottles is thought to be insignificant compared with the amount of oxygen introduced at the time of bottling. Also, aging is generally considered to be a reductive process.

            If there's an argument against aging wines under screwcaps, it's that the extended longevity (over several decades) of screwcaps has yet to be proven. There are experimental screwcapped bottlings of Australian whites (riesling especially) going back more than 20 years. The screwcapped bottles have lost none of their fill and remain remarkably fresh and lively. Anyway, even cork should be replaced after a few decades; IIRC Lafite-Rothschild recommends 30 years and even organizes recorking clinics for the purpose.

            Synthetic corks are a different story. Many if not most are best used for wines for immediate consumption.

            In the end, I frankly don't give a damn how a wine gets into my glass, just what it looks, smells and tastes like once it's there. I've had many tainted wines from cork-stoppered bottles (some of them very expensive bottles whose cost was never recovered), not a single one from a screwtopped bottle. And, yes, I'd love it if producers started "bottling" good wines in high-quality bag-in-box containers.

            1. re: carswell

              Hi Carswell,


              I hear different things all the time but have not read anything solid from reliable sources one way or the other. Anything you might provide would be greatly appreciated.

                1. re: vanillagorilla

                  From the end of your second link:
                  "I still believe that sound corks are the preferred closure for fine wines. The TCA problem is diminishing as cork suppliers continue to improve their production methods. My hat is off to them for doing so. Modern screw caps may be OK, provided the liner seals well and continues to keep the air completely out for a long enough time. Screw caps didn’t do that thirty years ago and screw capped wines were never bottle-aged back then. "

                  1. re: vanillagorilla

                    Re: The Appellation America article by Richard Peterson that says cork don't breathe. Peterson is incorrect.

                    A study done by the University of Bordeaux confirmed that aging of wine in the bottle occurs through micro-oxygenation via the cork. "The study measured oxygen permeation of two grades of natural cork, two technical corks, two synthetics and screw caps-not surprisingly finding different oxygen barrier properties. There were higher oxygen ingress rates with synthetics and lower oxygen ingress rates with screw caps while corks fell in between. Among the findings were that the oxygen permeation patterns for natural corks differed depending on the grade of cork. Also of note: with cork, oxygen permeation rates were found to generally decrease over time."

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      I've heard this discussed elsewhere, but can't find the links. There has been some new research done that shows that oxygen permeation through the cork is basically nil. There is however, oxygen stored in the cork. It slowly seeps out of the cork and into the wine bottle. But once this amount of oxygen is gone, you don't get anymore; unless there is a bad seal.

                      If this research is true, sealing wine just became a whole lot easier. You can make an absolutely air tight seal, and simply inject the amount of oxygen that a cork would leach at the bottling time.

                      1. re: vanillagorilla

                        It's long been known there has been gas in the cork that would seep into the bottle. This is different from the focus of the Bordeaux 3-year study, though, which measured the oxygen-transmission rates of cork, synthetic corks and screwcaps.

                        The study did find, as mentioned above -- and this may be what you are referring to, VG -- that oxygen permeation rates decreased over time.

                        Here's a good long list of scientific papers on the role of closures in wine development, with links, if you're interested in more reading:

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          No offense, but I tend to be skeptical of any studies provided by a manufacturer of cork. :) I'd be just as skeptical of any screw top studies provided by a manufacturer of them.

                          1. re: vanillagorilla

                            You can source the scientific wine journals directly.

                          2. re: maria lorraine

                            I've learned something new.

                            I received an email this morning from Paulo Lopes, PhD, who works at the Amorim research department as senior wine scientist. His PhD in 2005 from the Faculty of Enology of Bordeaux was on oxygen barrier properties of different closures and their impact on chemical and sensory properties of bottled wine. I had asked him about the Richard Petersen article about corks’ breathing, and about oxygen transfer into the bottle via the cork, and this is what he wrote:

                            "In general, I tend to agree to what Richard Peterson said. In fact we have already discussed this issue and then Richard published the second article of Corks Do Not Breathe.

                            "In our research at the Faculty of Enology of Bordeaux we have clearly demonstrated that there is a “microxygenation” of bottled wine sealed with corks. However, most of this oxygen is provided by the cork cell structure, which represents around 95% of the total oxygen transmitted during three years of storage. [So you were right, AG!] Only residual amounts of atmospheric oxygen permeate through the cork-glass interface. Therefore, it can be said in general that corks do not breathe (considering that breathing is the mechanism of atmospheric oxygen permeation through closures).

                            "The oxygen transmission provided by corks would appear to be positive for wine ageing, avoiding the formation of post-bottling reductive flavors, more noticeable in wines sealed with tighter closures such as screw caps. It seems clear that bottled wine sealed with corks never takes place under strong aerated or completely anaerobic conditions, but rather under "very poor-oxygen atmosphere" that cork stoppers are able to provide.

                            "I am attaching the 3 peer-reviewed articles that we have published."

                            Lopes, P.; Saucier, C.; Teissedre, P.L., Glories, Y. Main routes of oxygen ingress through different closures into wine bottles. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2007,55, 5167-5170.

                            Lopes, P.; Saucier, C.; Teissedre, P.L., Glories, Y. Impact of storage position on oxygen ingress through different closures into wine bottles. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2006, 54, 6741-6746.

                            Lopes, P.; Saucier, C.; Glories, Y. Nondestructive colorimetric method to determine the oxygen diffusion rate through closures used in winemaking. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005, 53, 6967-6973.

                            All these articles and more are in this list:

                        2. re: maria lorraine

                          with respect, the link you give doesn't confirm micro-oxygenation via the cork. - it says

                          "It is not clear how oxygen actually enters a cork-sealed bottle, says Amorim, and the company is funding research to better understand oxygen entry--to determine, for instance, whether oxygen diffuses through the cork from the atmosphere or from within the cork itself."

                          If I recall correctly, Peterson stated that oxygen is not transmitted through the cork.

                          If oxygen transmission is necessary for aging of wine (and I don't think that it is proved that it is) then notice has to be taken of the length of cork and a whole number of other factors.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              Thank you,Maria.

                              "“microxygenation” of bottled wine sealed with corks. However, most of this oxygen is provided by the cork cell structure, which represents around 95% of the total oxygen transmitted during three years of storage. "

                              raises the question of aging wine with DIAM closures which many top wineries have/are converting to, because DIAMs do not have any cells.

                              1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                                Those DIAM corks are curious -- they take the air cells out, but add microspheres with gas back in. I wonder what the actual air exchange is, then. I wonder if they function more like a synthetic cork, which, because of its lack of flex, allows more air in than desired. Are you familiar with the ins and outs of these corks, GF?

                                One thing that that got my attention on their website -- they offer free cork taint test kits! For all those who would like to smell TCA and lock in the smell:

                                I'll post a new thread on this...

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  I have had a number of wines with DIAM closures without any problems, but these are all youngish wines, not 20 year olds for obvious reasons.

                                  I have spoken with a several winemakers who have switched to DIAMS and are convinced by them, but their main criteria is avoiding TCA.

                                  The entire issue of aging wine is, I believe, not understood.

                                  I personally think that aging wine and oxygen are two separate actions which are sometimes complementary; that is I think that wine can and does age without oxygen transfer, and while microoxygenation can be beneficial it is -- for obvious reasons -- completely uncontrolled and can ruin wines by over oxidising.

                                  I went to seminar on the subject last year with an international panel of winemakers and scientists.

                                  I don't have my notes with my at the moment, but I do recall that the experiments on oxygen transfer into a selaed bottle were conducted by cutting the bottom off the bottle, inserting the measuring machinery, and sticking the bottle to a surface. I am not a scientist, but that method struck me as not emulating real life.

                                  I now am not interested in aging wine for 20 years -- been there, done that. WIne is made to drink earlier than it used to be and ,while old wines are interesting, I get more pleasure from younger wines with their fruit. 5 - 10 years is enough. I don't want a TCA ruined wines and I'm delighted with screwcaps and DIAMs seem good too.

                                  Another factor with standard corks is that they impart a 'dirty' cork taste to wine -- screw capped wine tastes fresher.

                                  1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                                    <<I think that wine can and does age without oxygen transfer>>

                                    oh yes, very much so...that's a fascinating chemical dance...

                      2. re: Icantread


                        Check this post (part of which I canabalized for the above) and the following posts for several references. Some of my info comes from discussions elsewhere that long ago disappeared into the ether. Jamie Goode's *The Science of Wine* and Jancis Robinson's *The Oxford Companion to Wine* (3rd edition) are fairly up-to-date, though obviously less so than trade publications and scientific papers (which, to be honest, I' ve not been following closely).


                        1. re: carswell

                          Thanks to both sides of the argument for putting forth some good articles I look forward to reading.

                          1. re: Icantread

                            « some good articles I look forward to reading » - Icantread


                            But seriously, they do look like interesting articles. I doubt they'll be on the top of my stack of things to read, but I'll certainly be printing out some and slipping them in there.

                    2. re: Scott M

                      I have not had many boxed wines that I think are good, or a memorable spray cheese for that matter. (Although, for all I know, boxed wine might pair nicely with canned cheese.) We generally purchase wine in 750 ml bottles (or the occasional magnum), so it is unlikely I will ever have much knowledge about boxed wine (which seems to be mainly 3 and 4L boxes), but in my limited experience, it "hasn't been the box's fault" if I did not like the wine. I have yet to try any of the canned wines. That said, I would be skeptical of a canned or boxed wine, and likely would not bring one to a restaurant. I have had enough experience with screw tops, that I have come to accept them. I can understand your opposition to the screw tops, but I do not share it.

                      Most of the wines that I buy are not bought for long term aging, but the wines I am currently aging (CdP, Cabernet, some Syrah, etc) mostly have corks. I am sure that eventually, I will have some experience with aged screw top wine, but my personal experience to date is minimal.

                      1. re: Scott M

                        I hate to seem rude but your brie comparison is absurd. Sometimes I buy brie that comes wrapped in paper and stuffed in a little wooden box and sometimes I but brie that is precut and wrapped in plastic wrap. Either way it's still brie. The product on the inside is still the same.

                        I used to have the same feeling about screw caps many years ago when I worked in restaurants but over the last five years or so those feelings have really gone away. I don't even consider the method used by a winery to seal the bottle anymore. In fact, I have even had wines within the last couple of years that were great eeveryday wines that didn't come in bottles. There are a couple of Australian wineries putting quality products in a bag in a box and one California winery putting good wine in a 1 liter carton. The lower cost of packaging and shipping keeps the price of the wine more affordable. Now, these wines certainly aren't Opus One quality but they are good enough to drink and offer to guests at the house.

                        I would certainly take a screw cap bottle to a nice restaurant for dinner.

                    3. If it really bothers you, certainly tell the winery and stop buying their wines. But personally I would never stop drinking a good wine because it was bottled under a screw-top regardless of price. I'm paying for what's inside the bottle. And high-end wine producers that go to screw-top generally aren't doing it to be cheap, they're doing it because they believe it will better protect and preserve what's in the bottle.

                      I actually sometimes find it amusing to have a screw-top wine at a restaurant, because often the server seems like an actor who's forgotten their lines when they don't have the full wine-opening ritual to go through, as they stand slightly puzzled holding the screw-top wondering, "What do I do now?".

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: Frodnesor

                        Price and closure company profits are huge considerations, as well as eliminating cork taint.

                        Screwcaps are cheap. Cheaper than cork. I know...I've attended seminars on corks, Stelvins vs. corks, cork taint, reduction errors, etc.

                        I sense Scott M. loves the aesthetics of the cork...as do I.

                        Aesthetics are an important consideration; they provide resonance and richness to an experience. As examples from my own life: I like wooden matches, prefer drinking vessels made of glass, and nearly always use cloth napkins.

                        I prefer a cork to a screwcap also because of its aesthetics, which include the ritual of opening and service. It's wine foreplay. Some of that is lost when dealing with screwcaps.

                        That being said, nearly every wine with a screwcap that I've tried has been wonderful.

                        There ARE problems with screwcaps and synthetic closures. They allow too little oxygen to enter the wine. This creates reductive errors and reductive flavors in the wine. Not all reductive flavors are bad, but most are.

                        Recently some screwcaps that allow a small amount of air exchange came on the market, thus reducing the percentage of reductive errors and flavors.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          Thanks Maria, I do like the aesthetics of cork. Another benefit for me is the cork can give some insight into how a wine was stored. If a wine is stored on it's side and exposed to heat the wine will move up the side of the cork possibly to the foil. If I purchase a wines from a retailer and notice the cork stained the length of the cork, this often is an indication the wine has not been properly stored or was exposed to extreme conditions. With a screw cap I do not get any indication at all.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            «Screwcaps are cheap. Cheaper than cork.»

                            Can you provide some stats, Maria? Haven't looked into this lately but I remember a synthetic cork manufacturer citing figures that had top-quality screwcaps costing about as much as top-quality corks, and that was before account was taken of the costs involved in rejigging the bottling line.

                            Personally, I'd gladly pay a premium to avoid cork taint. Foreplay may be fun but in this context it's ultimately beside the point. What's more, it's fleeting; the pain of pouring a 15-year-old bottle of 1982 Mouton-Rothschild down the drain isn't.

                            «There ARE problems with screwcaps and synthetic closures. They allow too little oxygen to enter the wine.»

                            Actually, one of the main problems with some synthetic corks is that the wine oxidizes prematurely. Which means they let too much oxygen enter the bottle, no?

                            1. re: carswell

                              I'm sorry; I don't have a cost comparison handy. I'm racing against deadline on three projects, otherwise I'd provide you with exact costs per 1000.

                              Fairly easy to find, though, if you compare the cost of 1000 screwcap closures to 1000 Amorim corks. Amorim is known as one of the cork manufacturers with the lowest percentage of tainted corks upon arrival at the winery. I distinctly remember the cost difference argument being made during the screwcap vs. cork debate held at Copia last year. However, the latest screwcaps have gas-permeable membranes under the metal cap (to reduce reduction) and are more expensive.

                              But the biggest point about closures that has to be made is...the closure has to be chosen for the individual wine. Screwcaps are best with white wines, wines meant to be drunk young, and with certain varietals that react more favorably from a chemical standpoint with reduction. Red wines, wines meant to be aged, and wines that absolutely cannot be exposed to reduction are better with corks. Expensive wines are usually closed with corks, partly because expensive wines are usually meant to be aged.

                              Scott M’s perception (or his perception of his guests’ perceptions) that a screwcap wine is a cheaper wine is both historically and currently accurate. Nearly 80% of all wine priced over $25 is closed with a cork, said the 2006 Closure Report from Wine Business Monthly

                              That being said, I would hope Scott M arrives at the idea that a screw-capped Riesling may be the perfect wine to bring to an Asian resto to accompany the food, understanding that the most important aesthetics would be the sensory pleasures of the food and wine, not the closure. Or, that the best wine for a picnic or outdoor event may be a screw-capped wine. Perhaps Scott M can employ a certain stylish twist of the wrist that adds dramatic flair to the screwcap opening.

                              Something in this whole closure conversation that hasn’t been discussed is that cork has been unfairly blamed for taint that was actually created by the winery (TCA, TBA, or TeCA). I’ve seen it quite often. If I could, I’d go back in time to see which wines were tainted by corks, and which were actually tainted by the winery because it used chlorine compounds and constructed their buildings with preservative-treated wood.

                              “Cork taint” isn’t well understood. You still find wineries all over the world using chlorine bleach with water to flush tanks and hoses, creating the perfect conditions for TCA, trichloroanisole. Or wineries that unwittingly buy lumber for construction or wood shelving treated with TBP, which then changes into TBA. The wines become “corked” because of the chlorine and wood preservatives, and the corks are blamed. That’s not a reason to use screwcaps.

                              In fact, in those two instances just above, the wine closed with a screwcap will also be "corked," since the taint entered the wine through the pores of the barrel, or by exposure to air during any part of the production process. A “corked” screwcap wine.

                              Most good wineries who use corks batch-test them. They buy a big batch of corks from a good company, and use three dozen to bottle some wine. Six weeks later, the winery sends the bottles to a lab and has them tested for the family of taints (TCA, TBA, TeCA: the haloanisoles). The wineries consider it a cost-saving maneuver since they rarely have corked wines. Of course, if the winery is making the taint itself, then good-quality, untainted corks won’t matter.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                "Screwcaps are best with white wines, wines meant to be drunk young, and with certain varietals that react more favorably from a chemical standpoint with reduction. Red wines, wines meant to be aged, and wines that absolutely cannot be exposed to reduction are better with corks. Expensive wines are usually closed with corks, partly because expensive wines are usually meant to be aged."

                                I'd agree with you only if the bottler hasn't selected the correct liner. As you say, progress in liners to reduce reduction have been quite significant over the past few years. Wines can be bottled with inexpensive screwcaps provided they have an appropriately (and admittedly more expensive) permeable liner. Reduction is much less of an issue than with the non-permeable screwcaps that most people associate with cheap wines.

                                I'm thrilled every time I hear of a new winemaker experimenting with or transitioning to screwcaps, particularly for longer term agers. Even Ch. Margaux started with a percentage of screwcaps for their Pavillon Rouge (a mid-term ager) with the '03 vintage. Kudos to Steve Edmunds for switching to screwcap for his Bone Jolly gamay (a 3-5yr wine).

                                I've lost far too many good bottles to either cork taint or cork failure (a topic that hasn't really been touched on is this thread). When I'm in a wine shop, trying to decide between two bottles, if one has a screw cap, I'll take that over cork every time.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  Maria, I was with you until this comment.

                                  >>> Scott M’s perception (or his perception of his guests’ perceptions) that a screwcap wine is a cheaper wine is both historically and currently accurate. Nearly 80% of all wine priced over $25 is closed with a cork, said the 2006 Closure Report from Wine Business Monthly <<<

                                  If you said that "Scott's perception that the horse is principally used in Europe and the United States for transportation and farming is historically accurate," that, too, would be a accurate statement.

                                  Europe and much of the world has little or no history with using a screw cap closure. The US certainly HAS used it for "cheap" wines (MD 20/20, Night Train, Thunderbird), as well as for jug wines (Gallo, ISC, Carlo Rossi, etc.). But there is far more jug wine made in California than there is $100+ Napa Valley Cabernets -- just as there are far more internal combustion engines on the road than hybrids (like the Prius) . . . doesn't mean that the hybrid drive is a bad idea; it means the hybrid is a newer technology and its use is expanding: from Prius to Camry to Highlander and to Lexus, as well as from Toyota to Honda to Ford . . . .

                                  The PERCEPTION that "screw caps = cheap" is the #1 reason why screw caps usage has not expanded faster than it is. Wineries are afraid to "look cheap."

                                  But when producers like PlumpJack, Bonny Doon, Argyle, and dozens of other domestic (US) producers use -- including high-end Pinot Noir producers -- screw caps for all or part of their production.

                                  Obviously many more producers in Australia and New Zealand use screw caps than they do here in the US. Why? Because there is NO historic association with screw caps = cheap . . .

                                  The same is true in Europe, where an increasing number of Loire Valley producers, as well as some in Burgundy, the Rhône, and Alsace are employing screw cap closures.

                                  AND, as I seems to have already said once, Château Margaux and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are putting up part of their production in screw caps . . .

                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    And I don't want to come at Maria but this negativity toward screw cap closures wreaks to high heaven of snobbery which really suppresses wine's growth among consumers I think.

                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      Don't misunderstand. I love screwcaps. I think -- and have said -- they are the preferred closure for some wines. I love the experimentation, the testing. The jury is still out on wines aged for lengthy periods with screwcaps, and on the reduction of reduction with the newer screwcaps. And actually, the jury is still out on cork taint also -- so much was not caused by the cork. I think the cork has been unfairly maligned.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        ML, I'm in total agreement with your sentimentality in all respect to corks and love all the tradition and ceremony. On the other hand being a life long left coaster I have a strong affinity for the Monkey Wrench Gang, aka stirring the soup, aka something else to do with a monkey... to which I'm leading up to a post on CH (iirc) about a clever waiter breaking the screw cap seal just prior to arriving at the table, once there giving it a twist while making a popping noise, then removing the cap by sliding the neck of the bottle down his left sleeve and catching the cap in his hand. Talk about dinner and a show, necessity as a mutha, etc, etc.

                                        1. re: PolarBear

                                          That would solve the "What do I do now?" waiter issue I raised above.

                                    2. re: zin1953

                                      Jason/zin1953, I based my statement on the stats in the Closure Report, linked to above. You are correct that areas other than the US don't have the "Night Train" perception to overcome. But the perception is here in US buyers, and that's what the stat refers to and corroborates. I love that DRC and other wineries are playing around with screwcaps, and evaluating their usefulness. Both closures have appropriate uses. Time will reveal more about which closure is better for certain wines, the environment, etc.

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        It's also worth noting that in Europe much of the trend toward screwcaps is being driven by British supermarket chains like Tesco, which are anxious to reduce the defect rate (almost certainly higher among cork-stoppered wines than any other luxury or semi-luxury product) and have the clout to do something about it. For what it's worth, the SAQ, one of the world's largest purchasers of wine, has announced that it is embracing screwcaps and glass stoppers, yet another sign that the sea has changed.

                              2. Nah, you should just switch to Two Buck Chuck. A real cork, and it's only $1.99 a bottle.

                                Randall Graham thinks screw caps are great. You don't. Whose wine judgment do you think I'm going to trust?

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  Neither, I think you should trust your own judgment.

                                  1. re: Scott M

                                    Gotta say, I'm with Jason on this one...love the screw cap! Mostly because I loathe corked wine and am highly sensitive to even a tiny amount of taint...ruins my experience much more than the snap of a twisting cap. On the boxed wine issue...get more comfortable, Dominique Lafon of Domaine Comte Lafon, (wicked rare and pricey Burgundy) has been playing around with the wines from his property in Macon...one liter boxes. Bottom line is we pay for what we are comfortable with, I pay for knowing that when I get my bottle home it will be sound and as the winemaker intended.

                                      1. re: carswell

                                        Loved that old thread of yours, Carswell, about subthreshold TCA, and this is something that Jason and I have also mentioned -- how often a wine is perceived as blah or uninteresting when it is actuallly slightly corked.

                                        I do want to re-emphasize that it is often not the cork that causes "cork taint," but the winery itself. The TCA in that case would not be called "cork taint" but "cellar taint." Bottling with a regular screwcap would only keep additional TCA from entering the wine after bottling and while being stored at the winery before being shipped out. Bottling with a screwcap that allowed some air exchange would be no better than a cork in that situation.

                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          «I do want to re-emphasize that it is often not the cork that causes "cork taint," but the winery itself.»

                                          Definitely worth reemphasizing. And I have to say that in my experience the rate of above-threshold cork taint in recently bottled wines has dropped significantly in the last couple of years, a change I would guess points to increased awareness among wineries of the potential causes of TCA contamination. It still happens, though; at a tasting I organized a few months ago, two corked bottles for which I didn't have replacements rendered a four-bottle flight of Margaret River reds pointless. (How ironic that the corked wines were Australian.)

                                          «Bottling with a regular screwcap would only keep additional TCA from entering the wine after bottling and while being stored at the winery before being shipped out.»

                                          True. Can't say I've ever encountered a noticeably "corked" wine (or cellar-tainted wine, if you will) bottled with a screwcap, however.

                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            Cellar taint: since I've never seen a wine case that was made with unbleached cardboard, are wineries that store casegoods near barrels at risk of cellar taint?

                                            1. re: SteveG

                                              Two ways to answer your question:

                                              If a winery has cellar taint, that means the air itself in the winery is tainted with TCA/TBA, and anything that aspirates, i.e., a barrel, is practically guaranteed to be infected. The wine inside a barrel that's breathed in airborne TCA/TBA through its pores would be infected. Nary a cork involved. As a consequence, case goods bottled from those tainted barrels would be tainted. As always, the level of taint (ppt) will vary.

                                              If instead what you're asking is, can untainted wine in case goods "catch" TCA/TBA from tainted barrels, the answer is it's highly improbable. The combo of the cork and capsule form a pretty tight barrier to infection, from what I've heard the experts say. Additionally, the latest info says that any air ingress into the wine from the cork actually comes from stored air already inside the cork, and not from possibly-tainted air inside the winery. But this answer implies that the winery developed cellar taint that went into the barrels *after* the untainted wine was bottled.

                                              Sorry to harp on this (please forgive) but I am more and more convinced that many, perhaps even most, wines a few years old or older that were marred by taint were marred not by corks but by wineries that used chlorine bleach to clean and sanitize. (And what winery didn't use chlorine bleach -- for decades, or wasn't at least partially constructed of wood treated with TBP.)

                                              One of the most notable reasons, IMO, for the big drop in cork taint in the last four years is that most wineries have banned chlorine cleaning supplies and replaced TBP-treated wood. Other reasons for the decline: the cork manufacturers themselves employing more stringent sanitation practices (eliminating washing corks with bleach for starters!) and frequent lab-testing of cork batches. Lest it go unsaid, screwcaps -- yet another reason for the drop in taint -- have caused cork manufacturers to better their game.

                                        2. re: bubbles4me

                                          Yes, well, I'm glad somebody read my post before . . ..


                                        3. re: Scott M

                                          If you trusting one's own judgment is the key, why are you so worried about what other people think about your screw-top wines? My point was that the cognoscienti are rapidly embracing Stelvin. It's just a better way to seal a bottle. If you're concerned that your server will be ignorant of this fact and assume you're drinking Ripple, you may wish to consider frequenting a better class of restaurant.

                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            hee hee. I like this...I don't give a crap if people think I'm drinking Ripple just because I haven't wrestled with a cork or synthetic stopper. If I like the wine I don't care if it came in an old peanut butter jar or a Ziploc bag. If I want ceremony and specialness I'll put it in a decanter. And if I felt uncomfortable bringing a screw-capped wine or a box to a restaurant, I'd quit going to that restaurant.

                                            Corks do have advantages. I dip them in paraffin and use them as fancy-a$$ firestarters in the winter. Synthetics are colorful, kind of an art form in themselves, and can be reused. (Also good for sticking on the end of a knitting needle to keep the stitches from falling off.) And screw-cap bottles are just right for holding my homemade hooch after I've enjoyed the wine. To each her own!

                                      2. First, I feel some of your pain, as I am a bit of a traditionalist and a purist. I like the corks, and the sound that they make, when I remover them.

                                        Now that that is out of the way, I have to say that with my everyday wines, I have yet to have a problem with a Stelvin, or similar. Back when, I was taking back about a bottle/24 with problems. Since Stelvin - 0.

                                        Do I embrace these 100%? Not yet, but I am learning. Do I long for corks? Yes. Do I miss having to schlep corked bottles back? No.

                                        Now, for the BYOW situation: it is about the wine, not the closure. It may take work, but do get beyond this.

                                        For the winery, they are probalby doing what they feel that they need to do. Think about it for a moment. If they're having to eat 4-10% (depends on with whom you speak) of their output, what would you do? Think about Plumpjack's Reserve Napa Cab for a moment. They offered it under cork, or Stelvin. The Stelvin was about US$10/bottle more. [Maybe someone can correct the exact difference for me. My database is not as clear on this aspect, as I would like.] This is a vaunted Cal-Cab..

                                        What you ultimately do is up to you. I'm learning to get by, though I do miss the corks. Still, I am saving gasoline on and the aggrevation of having to take corked wines back.

                                        How Stelvin (or similar) functions over the long-haul with age-worthy wines, remains to be seen. For me, that jury is still out.


                                        1. "I feel like I can not bring a screw top wine to a restaurant. In addition, if I went over to someone's house for dinner and was to bring a bottle of wine I would not want to bring a screw top wine. "


                                          You obviously know wine, and like you I also buy a lot of wine from small wineries. I have no problem with screwtops; I figure that the winemakers know more about wine than I do, and they seem to think that corks are no longer the way to go. In addition, I have no problem with taking a good screwtop wine to a restaurant as any sommelier or wine server that knows anything about wine will know that many great wines are now being bottled under Stelvin tops.

                                          That said, my views are pretty much like Bill Hunt's. I like the ambiance of corks, but I hate when I have to deal with corked wine. However, many of the small production wines I buy, especially Pinot Noirs, are being bottled with Stelvin closures, and if I want to buy them, I will have to take them as they are. The wineries cannot afford to continue to have to replace or refund for corked wines.

                                          1. I was out purchasing beer (specifically Pilsner Urquell) at one of those big supermarket size Beer, Wine and Spirits stores. An older woman there was also interested in Pilsner Urquell. The store had it in singles on the shelf in bottles and cans. When asked by the sales person which she preferred she said "bottles" as if the sales person should have known better. I was relieved as there were only 6 cans left. I prefer cans because pilsner style beer is greatly and deliteriously affected by light. My point is that perception (in this case the idea that cans are some how low class or otherwise unacceptable) can stifle your enjoyment. Whether it is wine or beer let go of convention, know what you like and enjoy.


                                            1. scott, it sounds to me like you object to screw tops for aesthetic reasons. i understand your attachment to corks. there's something really viscerally pleasant about the smell and look and feel of them. they're classy. they're fun to collect. and my dog enjoys chasing them.

                                              so let me try to win you over on the aestheticism point. i actually think there's much that is pleasant about screwtops, too. they're simple, democratic, utilitarian -- sort of like some forms of great modern art if that's not too pretentious a comparison. also, if there's a really good wine inside, better access to it in, say, a hotel room where you have no bottle opener, is a good thing, no? some wine is more aesthetic than no wine at all, to be sure!

                                              restaurants probably will not look askance at screw tops since so many more high quality vinyeyards are using them. if your dinner-party-throwing friends drink wine frequently, they probably wouldn't look askance at you for bringing a screwtop, either.

                                              1. After 35 years of enjoying wine, and the 3 most recent in the retail wine biz, I would agree with much of what's been posted here. There is, without doubt, a segment of people who are vehemently against screwcaps and their reasons are almost always based on the same aversion you have to the elimination of the "tradition, romance and ceremony" of the cork. Whatever your reason, it's valid for you and I would stop buying the wine. It's certainly your decision.

                                                There is a well-respected Cenral Coast boutique winery that lost a lot of customers because they switched to over-sized bottles which wouldn't fit easily into most home wine refrigeration units. As much as they like the wine, these customers found they couldn't store it properly, so they stopped buying. Whatever your reason is, if it's valid for you, act accordingly.

                                                That said......... I would urge you to be sure you are fairly deciding that your 'screwcap issues' outweigh your enjoyment of the wine. I've now seen enough REALLY high quality wine bottled under screwcap to believe that it is here to stay...... and will grow. The wine industry claims that natural cork costs it somewhere between 5 and 7% in lost bottles due to cork taint. Although I've come to feel that most people can't detect TCA at low levels, all it takes is an occasional great bottle lost to convince me (that's me, of course) that the screwcap is a relatively small price to pay for eliminating that loss. If screwcaps eventually turn out to cause their own negative effects (the suspect seems to be reduction issues) that will change things. For now I'm OK.

                                                1. There's an awful lot of expensive French wine in my pa-in-law's "cellar" - otherwise known as his dining-room closet, though it's been insulated - that would be reliably drinkable after the 40-some years it's been there had it been bottled with a modern screw top. There are bottles of Burgundy and Bordeaux wines that have lost up to 10% of their volume and most of their color, and about every third bottle we've opened has oxidized into undrinkability. This was of course exacerbated by the fact that the cellar in question is in the arid climate of Southern California.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                    Yes, but you get to enjoy the ceremony of cutting the foil and pulling the cork before pouring the wine down the sink. Isn't that worth something to you?

                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                      Alan, you could be a successful marketing rep for Drano.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                        Well, the worst of it is that Papa's palate is nowhere near what it was, and I've seen him happily sip away at something that tasted like leather dressing to the rest of us, insisting that there's nothing wrong with it.

                                                    2. I'm not disparaging the cork and lead closure system (I have given feigned praise to screwtops somewhere above), but I think this anecdote is worth sharing.
                                                      I had a summer college job as a driver for an elderly, affluent New England couple in the early 70's. On off days I was tasked with polishing silver and inventorying heirlooms in 2 levels of basements in the mansion. I opened a door on the lower level that probably had not been entered since WW1. The very smell had to be similar to what Howard Carter experienced when he first punched a hole into Tutankhamen's tomb. Extremely dead air; dead for a long time. It was a wine cellar, maybe 20x20, with several hundred bottles on oak racks. All were from France, and the labels were all done by hand in India ink, on desiccated labels tanned by time, but quite legible by anyone familiar with french (I'm not). Half or more had dates, from the 1860's throught the 1880's. There was surprisingly little dust, if any, because this room had been sealed so well.
                                                      Most of the bottles were about 1/3 empty. There is no cork or lead or probably any other system, that can retard evaporation for 100 years. I brought a couple bottles up to display to the owners, and they were amused for a fleeting moment and then asked me to return them to their resting place.
                                                      EDIT: To clarify, I was asked to return the wine bottles, not the owners, to their resting place.

                                                      1. I can't believe that the problem of access hasn't been addressed...try getting one of those screw-tops open if you have medical problems in your hands. I'm talking arthritis or carpal tunnel problems. The last bad cut I got (after the child-proof medicine cap) was trying to cut the screw top open (serrated knife) enough so that I could use one of those rubber thingies to open it.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: tennesue

                                                          While I can understand that twisting open a screwcap may be difficult for some, a) I have never had a difficult time opening one -- it's easer than opening a new bottle of ketchup, for instance; and b) is a screwcap any more difficult than a corkscrew for someone with arthritis or carpal tunnel? I don't know the answer.


                                                          1. re: zin1953

                                                            I do. Despite my (relative) youth and (self-proclaimed) virility, I have arthritis in both hands. It kind of sucks, but even with my wimpy thumbs there isn't a jar lid or a screw cap made that will stand up to this:


                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              Yeah, I was thinking some nice locking pliers would work on screw caps, but a task-specific kitchen gizmo would be better.

                                                              1. re: SteveG

                                                                I have found that a simple nutcracker or a pliers opens tight screwcaps quite easily. I then smell the screwcap before pouring the wine, as we do need to preserve SOME tradition!

                                                                As for corks, I have had too many 20-year old corks disintegrate from the corkscrew rather than slide out. This can happen even with my trusty Screwpull. So I switched to the Ah-so type two bladed cork remover, with excellent results. I should add that the wines with the crumbled corks were quite good, despite the cork fragments left in the wine after the partial cork extraction.

                                                                There is no perfect closure. Yet.

                                                        2. Each to their own, but it seems to me that you are missing the point when the packaging is more important to you than the contents.

                                                          I understand that many people are very pro or anti screwcaps, but your stance is the impression you make on others who might think you have brought a cheap wine just because it has a screwcap.

                                                          Maybe it won't make any difference because other people in the restaurant already think you are watching your budget by bringing in wine rather than buying from the wine list?

                                                          1. I can't believe no one posted a link to this classic film (original is on Bonny Doon website):


                                                            I always laugh when I watch this.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. I had a very nice 375ml bottle of '05 Baumard Quarts de Chaume this weekend, happily bottled under screwcap. It was far too primary and the sugar was rather coarse but the richness and fruit was superb. There is acidity in there somewhere but right now it's buried in baby fat. I'm looking forward to see how this screwcap wine develops over the next decade plus.

                                                              1. From a romantic or nostalgic point of view, of course a cork is the preference. But I would NEVER not buy a wine because it came in a screw top, nor would I ever let the screw top affect how I judge a wine.

                                                                To the point of an earlier poster, when you have a great bottle that is ruined by cork taint, it really makes you more of a screw top supporter. I have had both an aged First Growth Bordeaux from my own cellar and a DRC that were horribly corked. Having to dump hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars of wine due to the cork is a true shame.

                                                                Yes, corks are nicer, but untainted wine always wins.

                                                                I have not had any aged wines bottled with screw tops, so I can't comment on that issue.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: woojink

                                                                  Being the "traditionalist," that I am, I do enjoy the cork closures. But, for reasons, such as you mention, am starting to embrace the Stelvin (or similar). To date, I have yet to have a "corked" bottle, under Stelvin. Now, I've encountered a few tainted bottles, but I strongly suspect that these would have shown the exact same faults under cork, and that the closure had nothing to do with what I experienced.

                                                                  As for any preconception, due to packagaing, I am more strongly opposed to bottles with cute little animals on the labels, than the closure. Still, I have been surprised about some of those too.


                                                                2. BYOB wine to a restaurant??? They sell wine-why would they let you bring your own?

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Virginia Roby

                                                                    Many restaurants allow one to bring one's own wine, usually for a corkage fee.

                                                                    1. re: Virginia Roby

                                                                      Let's respond here . . .

                                                                      There are NUMEROUS threads on this site and elsewhere about bringing one's own bottle of wine into a restaurant (BYOB). This is a common and widespread practice ***WHERE PERMITTED BY LAW***

                                                                      Laws governing the sales of alcoholic beverages vary from state-to-state, even (in some states) county-to-county. Whether or not it is LEGAL to bring your own wine to a restaurant depends first and foremost upon state law, and second on whether or not the specific restaurant in question *permits* people to BYOB.

                                                                      Some states prohibit the practice completely. Other states, like California, permit the practice completely. And still other states fall somewhere in between -- for instance, they may permit BYOB only if the restaurant does not have a liquor license; OR, it may be permitted only in establishments that DO have a liquor license. Etc., etc., etc.

                                                                      The corkage fee -- the charge levied by the restaurant for BYOB -- will vary widely from place to place. It may be as low as $10-15, or as high as $75, depending upon how fancy the restaurant is and how much they want to encourage/discourage the practice of BYOB.

                                                                      It's generally considered bad form to bring in a bottle that is already on their wine list -- some establishments will refuse to open the bottle; others will charge a corkage fee equal to the price of the bottle on the wine list. It's also frowned upon to bring in really cheap bottles of wine in an effort not to buy bottles (think "Two Buck Chuck").

                                                                      The general purpose of BYOB is to a) enjoy a bottle of wine with your meal if a restaurant doesn't serve wine, and b) to bring in a special bottle of wine that's been saved for this special occasion. Other reasons, too, exist, but these are the two most common.


                                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                                        Thanks. I knew about those in VA (ABC stores), but didn't know there were other applications. Appreciate the info.

                                                                    2. DH enjoys good wine & couldn't care less whether it's cork or screw cap, but bring up the subject of the Kindle... : )

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. There are wineries that are putting the same wine / same vintage / same bottling under different closures. I have some bottles from Henry of Pelham that have been treated this way, and it will be an interesting few years as we taste whether there is any difference.

                                                                        I suspect not, but it will take a while to get over the perceived cheapness of screwcaps.


                                                                        13 Replies
                                                                        1. re: legourmettv

                                                                          Everyone's perception is going to change over time. I remember my grandfather lamenting about aluminum cans for beer (he still preferred beer to be in long neck bottles)

                                                                          1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                            I am starting to get used to screw tops. I still like the ceremony of the cork. I do not think a wait person presenting me with the screw top will be quite the same, it's like getting a beer with a pull tab or do they call them pop tops now? One of our better wineries uses screw tops for their lower priced wines. One advatage is the abillity to store them vertically whch for some slope sided bottles is handy as they do not llike to nest in the bin well. It is interesting som previous posts on vertical stoage of cork stoppers performing well. I found some riesling that I had made myself about twenty years ago and used lower quality corks that are pretty wet and are starting to desintegrate on opening. The wine is to be said is mostly past its window but a ffew bottles seem to have survived pretty well.

                                                                            1. re: dgris

                                                                              Just to possibly help you get used to them more quickly.................... when we owned our wine shop one of our favorite Pinots was from Argyle (Nuthouse). It was around $50 retail and came with a screwcap. It took a while for me to convince customers to buy it, but it quickly became a sell-out each vintage release. Looking at their website just now, it appears that ALL their still wines are bottled with screwcaps.

                                                                              The debate about the real value of corks as a wine closure is ongoing, and it will take more years of screwcaps to really compare correctly. A number of experts believe that almost all the changes that occur in wines during cellaring are due to the air that is already IN the bottle, and not so much from the passage of air through the cork. Don't try to tell that to a serious collector of first growth Bordeaux, however.

                                                                              1. re: Midlife

                                                                                I don't mind the new wines in screw caps, and I am very much a "traditionalist" in many ways. I have an extensive cellar(s) and enjoy pulling out 20-30 year old wines and wrestling with the cork...pomp and circumstance...ritual. I would hope not ALL wines will be screw caps in the future. I think our kids will miss out, so for me, it is not about innovation at all.

                                                                                My adult kids make fun of me (for a minute) about things. Serving tea in a silver tea service, wine ritual, delicate china, crystal, champagne ritual, etc. Then they ask..."can I invite a few friends over and we could do this again"?????? HA! Their friends think it is REALLY COOL. They ask questions, they want some history, they take pictures and post them on their "myface" thing, they enjoy knowing about something that is being "lost" to their generation.
                                                                                So, I happily open my screw tops from my wine clubs, then pour directly in a glass on the counter...but it really does pale in comparison to the age spotted bottle, cutting the foil, wrestling gently with the cork, carefully decanting, letting it rest, pouring the first taste, etc. That is the magic of wine for me.

                                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                                  For me, the magic is 98% in the wine itself, but I do agree with you about preserving the ritual and ambience of the experience. I always joke about whether, at some point, restaurants will begin assessing a 'screwage' fee. :o)

                                                                                  1. re: Midlife

                                                                                    Yes! I think plastic glasses and screw tops would interfere with the whole experience quite a bit for me....er...not enough to stop drinking wine however!

                                                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                                                      How about box wine that keeps the air out. Store easily, no broken bottes, in a pinch you do not even need a glass!

                                                                                      1. re: dgris

                                                                                        Now yer talkin'!
                                                                                        Actually, I tried a "black box" Chard for a family BBQ that was really not bad! I was surprised. It was much improved from the Gallo Rose wine my mamma kept in the fridge!

                                                                                        1. re: dgris

                                                                                          best part about the box wine growing up(late teen yrs) was being able to smuggle it or drink it without anyone being the wiser on the deed!

                                                                                  2. re: Midlife


                                                                                    As usual, I am with you. Now, I am a traditionalist, and do love my corks - BUT!

                                                                                    Caymus Conundrum is our "house white." Going back, I was taking back 1-2 btls. per case. They went to Stelvin (or similar), and I have yet to have one bottle to return. I do not miss carrying those bottles back for a refund.

                                                                                    Yes, I still miss the ceremony, and I miss the corks, but I do not miss explaining TCA to a salesperson.


                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                      Makes me wonder what is going on at that winery. I have cases of Caymus SS Cab from the 1980's. None are bad. I drink them and sell them (now around $200 per bottle). Not a bad one yet.

                                                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                                                        From the industry side, between 4 and 10% of wines, under cork have some level of TCA.

                                                                                        One takes their chances.

                                                                                        Good luck,


                                                                              2. re: legourmettv

                                                                                Actually, as mentioned above, in similar tests done in Australia and involving Riesling over a 20-year time frame, the cork-stoppered bottles aged normally (some of the older bottles were quite oxidized) while the screwtopped bottles were fresher and more vibrant. Of course, a percentage of the cork-stoppered bottles were corked while none of the screwtopped bottles were.