HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


Cork or screw cap ?

I am a novice to wine. I enjoy wine from the screw cap . But there is something about using the corkscew I like. Removing the seal, positioning the screw and twisting, using the lever to pry the cork out. Much more fun than a screw cap ,not that there's anything wrong with the cap. But if you had your choice wich do you like? I really like the ritual.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Most good wines breathe a little through the cork and that does not happen with a screw cap.

    5 Replies
    1. re: kagemusha49

      Most scientists say that the need for a cork to breathe is a myth and there is enough air in the bottle between the top of the fill and the cork. Some people argue otherwise, but it looks like science is on the side of the "it doenst help the wine age" debate, with the other side using mostly anecdotal evidence. I really don't know what to think on that matter because a lot of people who know a lot more about wine than me are on both sides of the issue.


      etc etc etc

      As to the OP's question, I too am a huge fan of the wine ritual. I definitely lose something in the experience with screw caps. Given the choice Id always take a good bottle with a cork over a good bottle with a screw cap. The problem to winemakers is that cork is responsible for a lot of damaged wine. Its a very clouded issue for sure!

      I think for wines meant to be drank relatively young screw caps and synthetic corks are definitely the way to go as far as whats better for the wine, but for long term cellaring I think the jury is still out.

      1. re: twyst

        Previous discussions of cork and screwcap closures that might be
        helpful/instructive/surprising/illuminating/fill in blank:


        Twyst, your statements and the links you've posted contain erroneous information.

        Screwcap wines develop problems, too, just like cork-closed wines. Scewcap wines are not at all immune from "cork taint," especially when a high percentage of cork taint is actually cellar taint.

        Scientific citations on oxygen ingress are in some of the threads, if you're interested, as I gather you are from your post.

      2. re: kagemusha49

        Does the seal applied over the cork and to the bottle neck allow the wine to breathe ?

        1. re: emglow101

          The seal is not airtight and I think it's there to keep bugs from attacking the cork.

          1. re: emglow101

            originally the capsule was made of lead. rats in the cellar were eating the cork. if they ate the lead they died. now they are not made of lead and and are for appearance only.

        2. Yesterday while opening a Merlot the cork cracked and I had to push the remaining broken piece down into the wine to enjoy it. Hence the screw cap is starting to appeal more & more.

          And the plastic or waxed corks I see often open with a bit more pressure applied to the wine opener but work like a charm as well.

          5 Replies
          1. re: HillJ

            I've been running across glass "corks" as well. Very easy to remove, recyclable, and hopefully wonks won't hem and haw over it too much.


            1. re: bulavinaka

              ...which isn't a glass cork at all, but a glass carrier for an "inert" seal (which is made of what, I wonder? When they don't say, it always raises my suspicions....)

              Haven't seen that one yet....

              1. re: sunshine842

                The seal seems to be some sort of silicon. The initial pull to remove it is just a little harder than subsequent tries. When reinserting the glass, it feels almost as if it's being pulled back into the neck of the bottle. It is watertight.

                Edit: forgot to mention that the most recent wine I purchased that had this sealing device was a California Pinot Noir. 2007 Surh Luchtel from Umino Vineyard in the Russian River Valley.


              2. re: bulavinaka

                I have had a few of those recently too.

                I saved them and re use them for "corking" my pop,beer or mineral water bottle (in the fridge) if I don't finish the whole bottle. Very handy :)

                1. re: sedimental

                  D'Oh! Missed opportunity on my part - thanks for the tip...

            2. I was talking to a winemaker a few months ago, and he said he originally started bottling his wine (white wine in this case) with screw caps, it was easier, cheaper, and this was a white that should be drank within a year or two anyway, so the aging issues didn't matter.

              He had such an overwhelmingly negative response to the release with the screw cap, that he switched to corks. Apparently people had a negative reaction, and for whatever reasoning, or mind trick, it all lead back to people liking the taste better when it had a cork.

              In the US, at least, many consumers associate screw caps with cheap wine.

              5 Replies
              1. re: goldangl95

                I agree. It's really too bad that the screw cap has a 'cheap wine' association in the US.
                The screw cap is by far the _ideal_ closure for a wine bottle. Just because the cork is traditional doesn't make it better.
                Fortunately, some makers of quality wines are seeing the light (albeit slowly) and switching to screw caps, and saying 'screw it' to using corks.

                1. re: The Professor

                  I don't make that association at all. IOW, I wouldn't not buy a wine because of a screw cap but many of the wines I enjoy don't use screw caps. It takes a long time to find wines that I really love enough to buy religiously.

                2. re: goldangl95

                  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. The reductive aromas that can develop in white wine closed with screwcaps are quite real and change the wine's appeal dramatically.

                  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.

                  And while screwcaps are convenient, easy and fast, let's not be so quick to dismiss the aesthetics of the cork. The act, the ritual, of pulling a cork is part of the aesthetic experience of enjoying the wine. Aesthetics make a qualitative difference in the experience: striking a wooden match rather than using a lighter; using cloth napkins rather than paper; eating off china rather melamine; etc.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Very often, aesthetics equal affectation. corks are mainly used because of tradition. Writers use to prefer typewriters to word processing but times change. Plastic and composite corks work well also but get much the same negative views. the bottle is a container, the cork, a stopper. The wine is the thing.

                    1. re: budnball

                      Completely, utterly, wholeheartedly, overwhelmingly disagree with this statement:
                      "Very often, aesthetics equal affectation."

                      Aesthetics offer an ocean of sensory data and enhancement.

                      If there is affectation, that is the result of an affected person or choices inappropriate to the situation, not the aesthetics themselves.

                      You can choose to appreciate aesthetics or not, or to include them in your life or not. There is an aesthetic difference of experience between striking a wooden match and using a lighter. Cloth napkins while dining have a different aesthetic than paper napkins while dining. In each example, both choices get the job done, but the nature of the experience is different.

                      Pulling a cork is a different aesthetic experience than twisting off a cap.

                      And yet, both closures have their appropriate use.

                      I do agree that the wine is the most important thing when it comes to wine aesthetics.

                3. I would much prefer the screw cap but alas not many wines have advanced to the 21st century.

                  I do like the cork with sparkling wines, because I am really good at de-corking sparkling wines and I get to show my stuff.

                  1. a few years ago, my boyfriend and i were vacationing at a ski resort in vermont, and had been drinking bottles of wine by the hot tub. we got back to the condo, and tried to open another bottle. he tried and tried and tried to force the corkscrew in, and we finally made do with pouring the wine out of the hole that we made.

                    it was pretty funny when we woke up the next morning and in our sober (and hungover) clarity, realized we had been trying to open a screwcap bottle with a corkscrew...

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: jamieeats

                        My wife has some eyesight issues in poor light and there have been a couple of times when she's done this sober. The epithets coming from the darkish kitchen are pretty funny.

                        1. re: Midlife

                          Ah, the problems with various closures.

                          I have dulled more than one "foil cutter," when it was a Stelvin-type closure. I have also had to take the "knife" in my waiter's friend, to cut through the tiny tabs on a Stelvin-type closure, when I could not break them, with a twist.

                          I have also found that no worm will penetrate a glass closure!


                      2. Most of the wine I buy still has corks but I keep my eye out for a good white with a screwtop to take to potlucks - I have lost too many good corkscrews over time. And if in a state where you can take an open bottle (unfinished from either a restuarant or potluck) the screwtop is usually a tighter seal.

                        1. It's interesting, amidst all this discussion of positives and negatives, that there are also screwcap makers working on screwcaps that breathe.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Midlife

                            Not that long ago, I bought a case of wine, under a non-traditional closure, that allowed "breathing." The cellar was filled, so I placed it in the master bedroom, which is the coolest room in the house, after the wine cellar. I could not sleep. All night, all 12 bottles were breathing, and they kept me up all night. Next night, I moved that case to the cellar, and brought up one, under cork, and those bottles were silent...


                              1. re: Midlife

                                No.... more like...

                                1. re: sedimental

                                  Hey, this is a very "tough crowd!!!!" LOL.


                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                you might even say that the quieter bottles had a nez bouchée....

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  I just screamed one night , "Shut UP!" They quieted right down.


                            1. Very tough question.

                              I also enjoy "the cork," BUT I hate to return corked, oxidized, or otherwise spoiled wines, under cork.

                              So far, I have not had any issues with a wine, under Stelvin, or similar. Do I enjoy the "procedure" as much? No, but no spoiled wines.

                              Now, with my age-worthy whiles and reds, my jury is still out. We will see one day.


                              1. I dont mind the ritual but I am over cork. Having to cheese-cloth a nice port because the cork is so dry the screw bores out a hole but no grip, is a pain. The rubber/plastic/composite corks seem to release easier. Randall Grahm's Bonny Doon wines are all screw- caps even the reds which is unusual. Most of the screwtops I see are whites for some reason. I would love to learn to sword open a Champagne. Over the top and likely wasteful but it sure looks like fun!

                                I guess the proper term is sabrage.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: budnball

                                  That's why these exist, although not any less annoying to use.


                                  1. re: plaidbowtie

                                    There is no way I would dare that! Does anyone really use them?

                                    1. re: budnball

                                      Yep, it's an accepted way to open very old port. Or I guess any old bottle for that matter?

                                      1. re: plaidbowtie

                                        Wow, it's one of those days when I learn something new. Thanx

                                        1. re: budnball

                                          The oldest bottle of port I ever opened was 1955 Graham which I opened in 1999. Didn't use a saber or even a katana. Just chipped off the sealing wax and used a corkscrew. Didn't even decant it - just poured it out very slowly into glasses. Perfect! A friend and I demolished the whole bottle (which I had purchased in England in 1973 for three pounds) and absolutely loved it, At the time you could buy the same port for $300 in New York.

                                2. I pick a bottle for the wine, not the cork/screwtop. Only exception: wine for picnics, where a screwtop eliminates need for packing an opener. (By sheer coinicidence we had some Stump Jump (screwtop) on the porch tonight.)

                                  Although I admit it is fun using a twin-prong opener (Ah So!) on corks to the disbelief of guests.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: DonShirer

                                    "I admit it is fun using a twin-prong opener (Ah So!) on corks to the disbelief of guests."

                                    I was surprised to see this posted 20 hours ago - I ceased fooling my friends with the 'Ah So' 30 years ago.

                                    1. re: FrankJBN

                                      Neither I nor my friends are wine experts, Frank, but we're willing to learn.
                                      (I did retire the prong opener last year after 40 years use.)

                                    2. re: DonShirer

                                      I have an Ah-So packed into every suitcase, along with a "waiter's friend," a Champagne stopper, and a Vac-u-Vin w/ a couple of stoppers.

                                      While I keep the Ah-So's for problem corks, and very large format bottles, it HAS been pressed into service on several occasions.


                                    3. Screw cap is the best closure for 99.5% of wine. I average about 3 corked bottles a month with natural cork.

                                      22 Replies
                                      1. re: wineglas1

                                        Unless you drink more than 50 bottles a month you're above the industry average. I'll assume your wines are stored properly but would really be interested in what you're drinking and whether you feel you have an above average palate sensitivity to TCA..

                                        1. re: Midlife


                                          That blanket statement reflects a lack of knowledge of the problem with screwcap closures, especially reductive aromas and flavors. The seal and proper ingress of oxygen have not been fixed.

                                          Screwcaps are great. But they are not for wine that needs storage more than 2-3 years because of the reduction problems.

                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            Agreed. Love screwcaps, but so far i trust them only for short-term aging of whites and/or rosés

                                            1. re: zin1953

                                              I still have an issue with them -- I understand all the scientific explanations and I don't doubt the veracity, and the logical part of my brain believes it all.

                                              But I really struggle with the mental connection I make between that sound and the cheap jug wine my folks drank in the 70s, and mentally I still equate "screwcap" with "cheap plonk".

                                              We have a rosé that we enjoy, and it's not cheap plonk, but I can't bring myself to take to someone's house, because it's a screwcap.

                                              Goofy, I know...but it illustrates how hard it is to combat a mindset that's been established for a few decades.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                1) Well, at least you KNOW it's "goofy."

                                                2) . . . or it illustrates how stubborn some people are. No offense, but I've been directly involved with the wine trade since the 1960s -- most of which was focused on "high-end" wines (e.g.: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Vintage Porto, etc.) -- and if anyone has cork "in their veins," it would be me. And yet . . .



                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  Oh, I know -- but that "crik" of a cap seal breaking just say "cheap" to me.

                                                  I k now it's not true, but I'm guessing the industry deals with plenty of others who have the same visceral reaction I do.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Only in the US. We are (one of) the only country with a history of jug wines & screwcaps. No such connotation is places like France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Australia or New Zealand . . .

                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                      I also don't see it often on the shelf here in FR -- for rosé and muscat, yes (Baume de Venise springs to mind) -- but they're pretty few and far between elsewhere, and none of "our" producers around the country use it. (purely anecdotal, I know, but interesting that nobody's even been playing with it -- I've asked a few out of curiousity.)

                                            2. re: maria lorraine

                                              I am in the "screw-caps for today" crowd. For wines with aging potential (which I am buying fewer of, due to my advanced age), I still go with cork, and pray.


                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                "(which I am buying fewer of, due to my advanced age)" -

                                                Wow! That's depressing. ;o]

                                                1. re: Midlife

                                                  Tell me about it !

                                                  I seldom even bother with Bdx. futures, or even Vintage Port releases nowadays. First, I have enough to last for a long time, and second, I will likely not live long enough for most to reach some semblance of maturity.

                                                  Still, life is good.


                                              2. re: maria lorraine


                                                Most wines purchased should not be stored more than 2 or 3 years let only one. I drink everything from $10 to $200 bottles on a regular basis and have nothing but positive experiences with higher end screw caps. It is a lot of work getting replacement bottles for wines purchased via auctions. I contact the wineries and most have been good about replacements with newer vintages.

                                                1. re: wineglas1

                                                  >>> Most wines purchased should not be stored more than 2 or 3 years let only one. <<<

                                                  While it is true that something like "well over 90%" of all wine purchased in the United States is consumed within seven days of purchase, CLEARLY, you and I must be drinking very different wines. I regularly purchase wines that NEED more than 2-3 years of bottle age, and regularly consume wines -- reds AND whites, let alone Ports -- from my cellar that are 5, 10, 20 years of age (older than that, on a not-so-regular basis).

                                                  As I've said on these pages before, in my Sensory Evaluation course at UC Davis, we opened a 1937 French Colombard (as the grape was then known) that was bottled under screwcap and stored in the Davis wine library ever since . . . this was 1979, FWIW, so the wine was over 40 years old. I've also had a 1970 Cabernet Sauvignon bottled under screwcap at approximately 10 years. These were both interesting -- more than "interesting," in fact -- but I'd not want to actually drink either one . . .

                                                  OTOH, I've also had a (rather famous, high-end) 1970 Napa Valley Cabernet that was bottled directly out of stainless as a tank sample, hand-corked, and aged for eight years. We tried it side-by-side with the finished, commercially-released, wine. The best comment at that tasting was made by Louis P. Martini who said simply, "Now we know why we age wines in oak."


                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                    Zin I am not talking about my cellar I am talking about the average consumer.

                                                    1. re: wineglas1

                                                      Hmmmm, the word "I" (as in, "I drink everything from $10 to $200 bottles on a regular basis . . . " and "I contact the wineries and most have been good about replacements with newer vintages") must have confused me.


                                              3. re: Midlife

                                                Midlife the industry average is low. Most people don't even know they are drinking a corked bottle. I have been at numerous trade shows and the pourers don't even know the wine is corked. Also many people have commented how great a wine is and I tell them it is corked. I explain what that means and they still drink it.

                                                As far as 50 bottles a month and am a wine educator so it would be closer to 200 or more. Right now I average about one out of every twenty-five are corked or damaged in some way. Of course storage on the end of the retailers/wholesaler will always be a problem with flawed bottles as I see in my town and I am sure all towns trucks deliverying wine without temp control in 100 degree weather.

                                                1. re: wineglas1

                                                  But screwcap wines can be corked. Most "cork taint" comes from the cellar, not the cork.

                                                  And, screwcap wines can easily have reductive aromas. So, the screwcap is not in the slightest a closure without problems.

                                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                                    That has not been my experience. The majority of "tainted" wines, exhibit elements of that on the cork.

                                                    Now, I have encountered some wines, where the corks were fine, as far as I could tell, but there was still taint - I would possibly typify those as being tainted somewhere in the cellar, but they are in the minority.

                                                    However, I do agree that screw-caps are NOT without issues.

                                                    Little in life is perfect.

                                                    While we do not drink as much as Wineglas1 does, we probably are a bit above the 50/mo. most often, unless we are in the air a bunch. However, when we land, we usually try to make up for that.

                                                    As far as consumers downing tainted wine, and never noticing, I encounter that far too often. They just do not understand. I usually save a few bottles that have definite TCA/TCB taint, and share those with members of the International Wine & Food Society chapter here, just so they can know. I always bring a good bottle of each, so that an A-B will point out all attributes of the taint, in that particular wine.

                                                    Just some personal observations, and NOT scientific experiments.


                                                  2. re: wineglas1

                                                    wineglas1, I'm very much aware of all you're saying and agree. Had no reason to know you're in the biz.

                                                    One more proof of how few people recognize flaws (let alone TCA) is a view into the BTG world in restaurants. Very few do anything at all to preserve open bottles, saying they turn over the wine too quickly (but it's more that people don't detect the deterioration, or at least don't report it).

                                                    1. re: Midlife

                                                      With B-T-G, I most often encounter oxidation, rather than TCA/TCB taint. However, there have been cases of taint. It just depends.


                                                    2. re: wineglas1

                                                      >>> Midlife the industry average is low. Most people don't even know they are drinking a corked bottle. I have been at numerous trade shows and the pourers don't even know the wine is corked. Also many people have commented how great a wine is and I tell them it is corked. I explain what that means and they still drink it. <<<

                                                      The issue at trade shows is crucial, but -- despite knowing what they SHOULD do -- the reality at trade shows is that the people pouring (be they volunteers, wholesale reps, or employed directly by the winery) run out of one bottle, pop a cork, and pour immediately, rather than taking the time to stop, smell, and double-check the wine . . . in the heat of the rush, it might be understandable as human nature -- you may have dozens of people clamoring for a taste in a room full of hundreds, if not thousands -- but it's something that should never be done.

                                                      I, too, have been at numerous trade shows where a corked wine was (accidentally) being poured. When I tell the poured, they blanche, thank me, and stop . . . IMMEDIATELY. The only ones who keep drinking,even AFTER it has been explained that the wine is corked, and what that means, are the consumers . . .

                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                        Have not mentioned it in this thread, but have elsewhere. Some years back, I was at a trade-tasting, and one break-out session was "Reserve, What Does That Mean," and a fairly high-profile Napa producer was pouring. The person hosting that session was the son of the owner/wine maker, and their Director of Marketing. The whole concept was to compare "Reserve" wines vs their "regular" counterparts.

                                                        I arrived early, and took my seat at the front. He poured the "Reserve," and then the "regular," and I sniffed and tasted, before many had arrived. He continued to pour the room, from several bottles of each. When he had finished, he passed by and poured a bit of the "Reserve," into my glass. OMG! It was corked. Though I had only gotten a very light "top-off," it was very obvious to me. I pulled him aside, and told him of the problem with his last bottle. He shrugged, and the session began. His opening statement was "Some of you will not have a good version of the Reserve, as it is corked." Say what? The hosting venue served all of his family's wines, and surely had cases of that Reserve, just rooms away.

                                                        Some do not know - and some do not care. That was the very last time that I ever have had that producer's wines.

                                                        Along those same lines, we arrived at a Central Coast (CA) producer's wine room, early one morning. There were four people already at the bar. The owner/winemaker started us off with his "entry-level" Chard. I instantly pulled him aside, and whispered, "it's corked." He sniffed, and was aghast. He ran to the two other couples, and grabbed almost empty glasses from each person, replacing each. Those guests had been extolling the virtues of that Chardonnay!

                                                        When he had replaced those glasses for everyone, he came back to me, and whispered, "That bottle was just opened late last night, and then sealed. The staff never smelled it, or tasted it, and I trusted them. I will never do that again." He was totally devastated by what happened. He actually cared about his wines, and how they were presented.

                                                        No, many have not clue.