Screwcap vs cork

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Wine basics from the Chinese MW

Last week, Chinese headline news gasped over Obama serving Xi Jinping a wine under screwcap during his first White House visit as Chinese President. The fact it was newsworthy for the Chinese, made it newsworthy for UK wine publications.

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The perception that screwcap wines are cheap is outdated; there are too many examples of fine wines under screwcap to demonstrate the contrary. Although there is no perfect closure for wine, here are instances where screwcaps excel over cork:

Firstly, screwcaps themselves do not give wine cork taint caused primarily by TCA (2,4,6 Trichloroanisole), which gives off an unpleasant moldy earthy smell and taste.

Unfortunately, this fault is complicated by differing individual perception thresholds, in addition to varying degrees of cork taint, which makes cork taint hard to detect. As a result, customers might unfairly think a wine is lacklustrewhen it is actuallyfaulty. If I was a winemaker, I would want to eliminate this risk so my wineshave the chance to show their best at all times.

Meanwhile, screwcaps offer better consistency and less risk of oxidation. The variability of individual corks in its ability to seal a bottle properly means you are effectively gambling with each bottle in a given case. The variability of cork is evident in auction lots of older vintages where wines in the same case are pictured as having assorted fill levels.

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The last but not the least, screwcaps will keep your wines fresher and closer to its intended character because there is on average less oxygen ingression. A good cork will also have a similar low oxygen transmission rate as a screwcap, which helps age wines slowly (desired for fine wines), but the problem with corks is that it’s not known which cork will do this in a controlled fashion.

It’s obvious that I am in favour of screwcaps. I don’t like taking risks with cork taint and oxidation, which I have repeatedly experienced (with corks) as taster and buyer by profession.I like the security of screwcaps when I bring a wine to a dinner party or when I am buying wines to lay down. I recently purchased a case of Cullen Diana Madeline 2012, under screwcap, betting that every bottle will be consistent and flawless, while still being able to develop in bottle and beguile me in my old age.

Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦

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