To Screw or Not to Screw?
Who doesn’t like to Screw?
Screw caps have been around since the 1960s, but it has only been in the past few years that the average consumer has encountered them. Within the past few years there has been so much controversy around the screw cap closure system (known synonymously as the Stelvin closure system, Stelvin being the brand that has essentially cornered the market for screw cap closures) that is enough to give anyone a headache! What exactly is causing all of this controversy? Well essentially it’s a philosophical clash between the traditional, old way of doing things, and new, modern closures. For hundreds of years, wine makers have been using cork to seal their precious, poetic juice, and it has worked 90% of the time, so why should they change anything now? Call it evolution, call it carpe diem, call it whatever you want, but the fact of the matter is that it is only natural for human beings to want what is newer, better, more exciting, and wine is no exception. Screw cap closures are steadily gaining ground on the traditional cork usage. According to Wine Business Monthly, “the number of wineries using at least some screw caps has risen from a mere 5 percent in 2004 to 34 percent in 2011” (winebusiness.com).
Over the past several decades, numerous tests have been run to determine the benefits of the Stelvin closure system. According to a trial testing conducted in the 1970’s a man by the name of Dr. Bryce Rankine, “the range of wines examined retained their quality with a Stelvin closure significantly better than with a cork.” (screwcapinitiative.com). On top of these findings, screw cap closure systems have been proven to be more reliable in a cellaring scenario. Screw cap bottles can be held at any humidity, bottle storage orientation (say goodbye to keeping bottles on their side to prevent corks from drying out) and are far more resistant to temperature variations. Wines using the screw cap closure do not have to worry about cork taint or oxidation. Everyone in the wine trade tends to agree that about 10% of all wine sealed with traditional cork experiences taint in some form (known as 2,4,6 trichloroanisole), being caused by either contamination of the cork trees or a chemical like chlorine being used to wash the corks. Because of these results, prestigious wineries like PlumpJack have been using screw caps for over 15 years on about half of their high end Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings. Producers like Argyle and Hogue have also introduced screw caps into their entire still wine productions and have no intentions of turning back. Even producers from Bordeaux and Burgundy have slowly started to embrace the Stelvin system.