It’s a never-ending wrangle of opinions.
On one hand, you’ve got a historically preferred seal that wine traditionalists argue allows air to seep in, thus allowing for gentle oxidation. Perfect for wines that require cellarage, softening the tannins, rounding out and expressing the flavours. Cork is also sustainable and eco-friendly, winning the hearts of a significant number of wine drinkers, traditionalists or not.
Screwcaps are relatively new – they were only introduced in 1964 – not as pleasing to the eye and often perceived as an indicator of cheap wine. However, attitudes are changing. They are increasingly prevalent in New World Wines. Proponents contend that it makes for an ideal seal, as it allows for varying levels of oxygen transfer. Metal or plastic toppers don’t allude to questionable quality, either. On the contrary, it may indicate that an estate is specific in their craft. Aromatic wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling for instance, require an effective stopper that retains its natural fruitiness.
So, who wins?
An intriguing Oxford University study claims that rather than affecting the flavour or the smell of the wine, it’s the sound of the cork that makes the drink taste better. Participants sampled the same wines (Argentinian Malbecs), and after opening the bottles themselves, rated the bottles sealed with cork as 15 per cent better in quality.
Wine journalist and critic Jancis Robinson offers a balanced view. ‘We don’t enough know about exactly how different fine wines age under screwcaps,’ she writes, ‘but both white and red wines have been kept in good condition for more than 30 years using a screwcap closure.’ She adds that red wines meant for long ageing sometimes require a greater degree of interaction oxygen –the use of a screwcap prevents the process.
Our take-away? Don’t judge a wine by how it’s sealed.
The intrinsic Sauvignon Blanc characteristics of tropical fruits, melon and gooseberry, with underlying tones of pineapple and passion fruit sustained on a fresh, crisp and well-balanced palate with prodigious length.
Double Gold Medal – MIWA 2017
Cork: Henry Fessy Morgon 2013
A slightly smudged black cherry and wild strawberry-scented nose. The palate is medium-bodied with succulent, ripe red cherry and red currant fruit. The acidity here is nicely judged, with a kiss of tart red cherries enlivening the finish. Delicious is the best word for it! Buy 1 bottle at 50% discount.
Points by Wine advocate: 90