What About Twist-Off Caps?

Now that we've explored the natural cork, the technical cork and the synthetic cork, it's time to address the twist-off cap. And don't you think 'twist-off' sounds so much better than 'screw cap?'  The twist-off wine seal has been around for at least 20 years, but it still struggles to gain acceptance.  OK, yes, it got its start on cheap bottles of wines, but does that make it a bad thing?  I think not, and here's why you shouldn't either.

Have you ever been somewhere away from home with a bottle of wine only to realize you don't have a cork screw?  Or, have you ever opened an older bottle of wine and experienced a crumbling cork that either came out in pieces or had to be pushed through into the bottle? These are the situations when I'm sure you'd gladly accept a twist-off cap.  But more than just these occasions, the twist-off wine bottle sealer is one that should be more widely embraced in general.  And leading the way on this front, the twist-off cap has been broadly embraced by greater than 90% of New Zealanders and more than 70% of Australians.  

Twist-offs have gained varying levels of acceptance with the wine-buying public, and actually provide a reasonable alternative to natural cork.

Wine is 'alive' in the bottle and minute levels of oxygen are necessary for it to 'live.' It's just a matter of how much oxygen. Natural cork can and does usually lead to a slow evolution in wines by allowing tiny amounts of oxygen into the bottle.  But a cork can sometimes allow too much oxygen into the bottle leading to oxidization of the wine resulting in an undesirable nutty flavor.  Inside the metal twist-off cap there's an inner plastic liner that provides the seal with the bottle.  This seal can actually be produced to allow a controlled level of 'breathe-ability' for wine makers.  This control would seem superior to the unknowns associated with natural cork.

Others may argue that pulling a natural cork is part of enjoying a bottle of wine or that cork produces richness in texture in a bottle of wine.  Maybe. But statistics show that wine frequently becomes tainted to some degree by chemical compounds found in cork.  Formally known as 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (or TCA for short), this compound can result in a wine that smells like wet cardboard, or a wet dog. Not a pleasant bouquet when trying to enjoy a glass of wine.

Today, twist-offs are especially gaining acceptance for wines that are typically opened soon after production (whites wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Rosés).  And statistics show that most all wines are consumed very soon after purchase. So embrace the twist-off. It's a good thing. Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ Wine of the Week

Looking for an attainable, affordable wine?  You've come to the right place. Each week I feature just such a wine on the Behind the Cork Wine of the Week page of EverWonderWine.com

Please Note: This feature is being moved to a separate offering that will be posted on Wednesday each week.



Alternatives to Natural Corks

In recent posts we learned that cork comes from the bark of the Cork Oak and that the foil capsule covering the cork was originally put into place to protect the cork from insects and rodents.  So you might wonder is all this necessary today?  Aren't there viable alternatives to using natural cork as a means of sealing a bottle of wine?

The advantages of natural cork include its ability to compress and expand (it's malleability), its proven long-term ability keep a bottle sealed, its renew-ability (because, after all, corks do grow on trees!), and a cork does allow the bottle to 'breathe' and improve (sometimes) with age. 

On the downside, natural cork may be a renewable resource, but it is a limited resource as forests of Cork Oak continue to shrink around the world.  Additionally, cork is relatively expensive since the bark must be manually shaved off the trees and processed to make corks. Another downside to cork is that it is formed in nature and, therefore, its quality is variable. This variability leads to natural corks having different degrees of 'breathe-ability."  And finally, with a natural cork, there is a chance that a bottle of wine will become tainted by the cork (subject of a future blog).

So, what additional ways are there of sealing a wine bottle that do not involve natural cork?  Well the first alternative actually involves nature cork. To deal with cost and variability, 'technical corks' are produced by grinding up the scraps of cork bark that remain after corks are punched out of the bark, and this cork 'dust' is glued together, somewhat like particle board is produced. These technical or composite corks are less expensive to produce and more consistent in quality.

Another alternative to natural cork is synthetic cork. These 'corks' are made with polyethylene (plastic). These are cheaper to produce, do not use a limited natural resource, and do not lead to possible cork taint. Due to the fact that they don’t dry out, plastic corks are easier to take out the bottle and they won’t crumble into the wine. At the same time however, they are often harder to put back into the bottle because they are not as malleable as natural cork. And, because they are plastic, they are recyclable! Finally, synthetic corks are not for serious wine collectors who purchase wines for aging. This is because they do not allow the wine to 'breathe' while in the bottle.

The other alternative to natural cork is the hotly debated twist-off cap.  We'll get into this cork alternative next time. Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ Wine of the Week - Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel ($8)

Looking for an attainable, affordable wine?  You've come to the right place. Each week I feature just such a wine on the Behind the Cork Wine of the Week page of EverWonderWine.com

This week's wine is Bogle's Old Vine Zinfandel. This is a really nice wine and a great value. It's got intense fruit flavors without being a big 'jammy' Zinfandel. It is nicely oaked and smooth.  It pairs well with anything from the meat aisle, along with any other food with bold flavors.