What's Everyone Wining About?
If you drink wine, you have probably begun to notice the differences in closure methods that labels use. Screw caps, which were primarily associated with cheap vinos, have started to emerge in the market and become a sealing option for many high end wines. This emergence has sparked fire within the pro-cork community and has pushed this debate to greater depths.
Let's take a step back though, and explain how this debate began. In the 1980's Australian winemakers started to notice composition changes in their white wines and early reds. After meticulous investigation they determined that their wines had spoiled due to a process called cork taint. Due to this, many wines were completely destroyed which caused a major decline in the industry as a whole. By the early 2000's, Winemakers throughout Australia and New Zealand decided to make a call to action by eliminating corks completely and implementing screw caps as the primary sealing method. This decision ignited major controversy throughout the wine community and caused a major rift between cork advocates and screw cap advocates across the world.
In Cork We Trust
There is something very elegant and romantic about opening up a bottle of wine. The continued twisting and turning with the final sound of a pop brings an emotion like no other. This is an emotion that only cork brings, not screw caps. Keith Saarloos of Saarloos Sons winery believes that the whole concept and image of wine relates to the feeling and experience cork brings you. As said, no one gets laid opening a bottle of wine the same way as opening a bottle of Aquafina.
The reason we presently buy wine is based on the experience it brings us when we open and consume it. Since wine itself is a very time consuming and delicate product, it should not be put in the realm of water or energy products that don't bring us this same emotion. The process of opening a screw cap is what ruins and taints wines image by making it feel cheap and depreciated. Emotion, love, passion, and experience is what makes the wine industry what it is today.
Along with the romance and emotion that cork carries, we must also look at the environmental benefits it provides as well. Green has become primarily as important as red and white in the wine industry. Wineries across the world are trying to use more eco-friendly aesthetics that help minimize their affect on the planet. This is why pro-cork advocates have started to highly publicize cork's eco-friendly aspects.
Cork harvesting is one of the most beneficial applications in the world today. Cork itself helps in the absorption of CO2 and in fact, harvested cork trees absorb 3-5 times more CO2 from the environment than non harvested trees. Also cork is a major producer of oxygen, and provides a top biodiversity hotspot. Unlike cork's eco-friendly attributes, screw caps in turn have negative effects on the environment. The production of screw caps involves high non-renewable energy consumption and not to mention the production of toxic by-products such as aluminum and plastic. This is why the industry must stay with the king of all closure methods and keep the reign of cork alive.
Step Aside, Cork
Yes, for thousand of years cork has ruled the wine industry, but theres a new player in town. His name is screw cap. Now screw caps were implemented in the 1980's when winemakers discovered that cork was disintegrating and producing a chemical compound called TCA which would completely destroy the quality of the wine. This became a major problem for winemakers because if let loose TCA would not just contaminate a single batch of wines but could infect an entire cellar or winery.
Many winemakers also believe screw caps are better because of there ability to keep specific varietals similar. Since winemaking is very meticulous and time consuming, winemakers want their creation to taste virtually the same. The problem with corks is that they could ether spoil and ruin the wine or let in too much oxygen which could cause similar varietals to taste completely different. Screw caps on the other hand, do not allow any oxygen to enter which keeps the fruit fresh and velvety.
There is also skepticism on whether screw caps are effective at aging wine. Many believe they should only be used with wines that are going to be consumed in the first two years because of there restriction of oxygen. But according to many pro-cap advocates this is a flawed view. To them, the screw cap allows winemakers the ability to control the outcome of their wine, without having to rely on the consistency of cork. So overall, many believe it is just a matter of time before every bottle contains a screw cap.
Another benefit that screw caps offer, is the easy ability to open and close each bottle. Unlike corks, screw caps do not require any tools necessary besides something that most everybody contains, called hands. Also while opening a bottle with a cork enclosure, theres a strong possibility of a few fragments of the cork falling into the wine which is very unfavorable.
Lastly, as seen from the beginning of the video above, screw caps still contain a certain past stigma which derives from their use on bad wines in big jugs. But this view is a thing of the past. Screw caps are no longer considered the closure method for bad/cheap wines but rather they are now an indicator of quality wines. So make it easy on yourself and twist, rather than risk the possibility of corked wine. Screw on.
Let's Put This to a Close
The controversy between cork advocates and screw cap advocates has definitely caused a rift within the wine community as a whole. Both sides make valid arguments on which closure method should be primarily used, and both have clear benefits and problems. Though the millennial demographic has accelerated the adoption and implementation of screw caps, cork closure methods still primarily own the market with around 70% usage. But, it still remains to be seen as where this debate will head in the future and how the wine industry will adapt to future changes.
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