There’s been a big change in the wine industry over the last 10 years that’s led to less popping and more unscrewing when it comes to high-quality bottles of wine.
This fairly recent breakthrough in technology has seen almost all Australian and New Zealand wines going cork-free, including those world-class, top-notch varieties.
Developed by the French in the late 1950s the screw-cap was not initially accepted by the very traditional wine market of the time, and the cap was reserved for cheaper varieties of wine.
That all changed about a decade ago, when the screw-cap was revived and after much research and development to refine its capabilities, commercial winemakers in New Zealand and Australia started using the enclosures for their higher-end bottles.
The wine industry was ready for change - the quality of cork manufacturing had decreased in the 1980s, and issues of poor preservation had emerged.
The most notable of these issues being 2,4,6 - Trichloroanisole (TCA) ‘cork taint’: A chemical cork contaminant that ruins entire batches of wine, leaving a sought-after wine smelling foul and mouldy. Estimates have placed TCA-affected wines as high as 2% of all wines bottled under real cork.
Today’s screw caps and other false corks (made from plastics to plant-based polymers) offer the winemaker and wine enthusiast a reliable seal that removes the possibility of ‘cork taint’, and ensures that the wine remains crisp and well-preserved. Long term aging studies that go as far back as the 1980s have shown very positive results.
The long-standing argument that only real cork allowed the wine to breathe and properly mature is now emulated in cap and cork alternatives that allow calculated levels of oxygen to penetrate the bottle, ensuring a consistent aged result.
Screw caps are also particularly easy to open, so you are less likely to find broken cork bits accidentally floating in your special bottle of wine.
Some of the world’s best wineries from the Unites States, Australia and even France are increasingly preferring screw caps for young white and red wines. As wine-culture and technology continues to progress, the increased use of screw-caps and cork alternatives will likely follow.
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