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Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Put a Cork in It--Or, Not!
Perceptive wine drinkers all along California’s Central Coast have noticed that their favorite wines often come with two distinctly different wine tops—the classic cork stopper and the fairly new arrival, the screw top. Members of The Paso Robles Wine Club often receive shipments of wine with both types of bottle toppers and quite often, the question arises if one is better than the other. So to better answer the question, today’s post will look at both and provide a little history along the way.
Interestingly enough, the screw top, as it’s commonly referred, was invented in the 1950s by the French. However, traditionalists by nature, the screw top never gained popularity among the French winemakers and instead, was commonly used in the United States as the bottle closure of choice on some of the lowest priced wines on the market—think Boones’ Farm and Mad Dog 20/20.
In 1970, a company called Australian Consolidated Industries acquired the manufacture rights, renaming the screw top closure, Stevlin. Of course, back then, the Australian winemaking industry was a sleeping giant and winemaking was the sort of agricultural hobby that happened in conjunction with farming, and then, among family and friends.
Then in 2005, a group of winemakers in Australia’s Clare Valley decided to put the screw top to the test and collectively bottled 250,000 bottles with the screw top. The following year, with great anticipation, they decided to check the wine to see how it was aging; they found the wine was aging so well that they couldn’t discern a difference between the screw top and the cork. Thus, the Australians led the way in bringing public acceptance to screw cap wines.
Well, that is, just about everywhere, but among luxury winemakers—and drinkers—who still have reservations about the screw top. The cork, of course, has deep roots in winemaking and for many people, the ritual of using a wine opener to pull a cork is part of savoring the experience.
The introduction of the cork came by way of the Benedictine monks, or more specifically, Dom Perignon, who was looking to replace the commonly used wooden stoppers with something that wouldn’t regularly pop out of the bottle. Cork was widely available and plentiful. Made from the bark of Cork Oaks, native to Mediterranean regions, corks quickly replaced the wooden stoppers and were embraced by wine makers.
While the debate still rages on whether screw tops or corks are better, aside from personal preference, here are some guidelines: white wines and those red wines that are meant to be drank very young, are perfectly suited to the screw top. However, for big wines that are better with a little age, the cork allows for a little oxygen, perfect for softening tannins.
To sample a variety of unique and boutique wines produced in Paso Robles Wine Country, join The Paso Robles Wine Club and you’ll receive regular shipments of wine—some with screw tops, and others with corks—and all, perfectly suited for enjoying with family and friends.