Wine Academy part 9: cork or screw top?

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Jeroen van Mierlo teaches wine courses, in which he explains people the basics about wine. In this biweekly column ‘Wine Academy’ he answers the most asked questions about wine. In part 9 of the Wine Academy he answers the question “What is better: cork or screw top?” He explains the difference between a cork and a screw top on wine bottles and what the advantages are of both.

Cork or screw top?

If you look back to our previous article (LINK) on cork taint you wonder why some there are still so many wine manufacturers that use natural cork in the first place. Nobody wants a wine that might possibly have cork taint right?More and more often you see bottles with screw tops appear, especially in supermarkets and liquor shops.

Screw tops on a wine bottle

The most significant difference between cork and a screw top is that a screw top will shut the bottle completely air tight, whereas a natural cork will leave a very tiny opening for oxygen to enter the bottle. This means that wine in a bottle with a screw top till no longer change once it is bottled. This is completely fine for wines that will be consumed within the first few years after the harvest, especially wines that are supposed to be fresh and fruity.

Wine bottles with natural cork

A wine that is bottled with natural cork will be exposed to a certain amount of oxygen, even after the cork is put on top. This is called onxydation. Oxydation is not harmful and can even benefit the wine. Wine is a product that will keep developing (or aging) in the bottle. By adding a tiny bit of oxygen through the cork the wine will go through slight a change over time. Unfortunately it can happen that the cork has cork taint, but this is only happens on very few occasions.

Aging in the bottle

Wines that are made to age in the bottle and will benefit from a bit of oxygen during the aging process ar bottled by cork. Wines that are Wines that are made for ‘faster’ consumption and have a fresh and fruity taste will more and more often get a screw top.

Which is preferred?

Most wine connoisseurs will still prefer a natural cork over a screw top. This is partially because screw tops are, wrongly in our opinion, still associated with cheap wine. If a wine does not have a natural cork, they would still prefer a plastic cork than a screw top.

Of course for a lot of other people the screw top has preference because you can open it at any time without an opener.