As a controversial issue, the debate of corks or screw tops on bottles of wine has mostly faded from the public eye, and from your dinner party discussion. In 2017, seeing a natural cork in an Australian bottle of wine is akin to spotting a unicorn. Australian winemakers since the early 2000’s gradually phased out natural corks and transitioned to synthetic corks, ultimately settling on the twist top caps seen containing the majority of bottles today. But why the change? And what are some of the positives and negatives associated with corks and twist tops?

 

Argument for Corks

Opening a corked bottle of red or white wine is always a satisfying experience. The task of screwing into the cork and gradually applying leverage. The suspenseful wait for the cork to… *POP*. That tension and release. The reward finally poured into your glass. Popping the cork adds to the drama and enjoyment of a delicious bottle of wine.

There is also the perception that higher quality wines have corks. The better the wine, the less likely it is to be stoppered by aluminium. This idea of using corks in better wines ties in to the oxidation process.

 

One of the biggest arguments against screw caps is that it does not allow the bottle to breathe, this is technically fine for wines that are intended to be drunk young. However, during aging of wines such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot, the added oxidation provided by natural and synthetic corks can have a positive impact on the wine. Softening the tannins to promote a smoother product, but can result in a harsher taste if allowed to oxidise too much.

 

Argument for screwtops

In modern Australia, bottle openers have become rarer. You may or may not have a bottle opener somewhere in the house. But how often have you been caught out with no way to reliably pop the cork on your nice bottle of wine? A screw top helps you to get to the wine that much faster, all you need is the bottle, and a vessel to pour into.

Natural corks are 2 – 3 times more expensive than your metal twist top. Technically from a financial standpoint, both the producer and consumer benefit in the slight savings gained from the cheaper twist tops. Some purists argue however, that the gains in costs do not make up for the benefits associated with a physical cork. ‘

Personally, I would happily return to the days of corks in every bottle. The corkscrew was an essential tool in a wine enthusiast’s life and the popping of a bottle of wine was a regular ritual around the dinner table. The click of a twist top just isn’t the same.

 

By Phillip Warren