Cork vs Screw cap debate



stormhoekwine cork

One of the questions I seem to be asked all the time is “Why use screw caps instead of cork”. Most people seem to associate cork with expensive wine and screw caps with cheap wine, this may have been true 20 or so years ago in the States, but now a days some of the best vineyards in the world are bottling their wines with screw caps. Why?

Well over the last couple of centuries the wine industry has been using more and more cork, however as cork is harvested from trees that are approximately 6 to 9 years old the supply has not managed to keep up with the demand, this has led to a much higher use of pesticides and wood preservatives to get the cork ready sooner. These treatments on the trees are what most people are pointing at to account for the large increase in corked wine.

Corked wine is basically wine that smells and tastes undesirable and the main cause is bad corks. The way this happens is that chemicals (mainly TCA) that can be found in the cork react negatively with the wine and cause the wine to smell and taste bad. If you look at the percentage of wine that is corked you will see the figures sometimes go up to 15%, can you imagine any other industry where this amount of fail rate would be accepted, I doubt it.

Screw caps on the other hand have an almost 0 fail rate (we have been using them since 2004 on our wines and have had no negative feedback), they can also be recycled easily, and have been used to age wine now for many years, even producers in Champagne have aged their wines with screw caps with no told negative impact (most wine is consumed within 24 hours of being bought off the shelf anyway)

For this reason you will find the vast majority of our wine is bottled with screw caps, but if your still keen to use a cork screw, for the meantime you will be pleased to find we still use cork on our reserve range of wines.

(If anyone is wondering about plastic corks they aren’t  great as they are not a memory material so you cant age wine with plastic well, and it can still react negatively with the wine due to the chemicals in the plastic. Also they are very un-eco-friendly)

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14 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. I concur about the screwcaps vs. corks. Nothing worse than a shot bottle when you’ve got friends over or it’s the last bottle in the house.

    Do you guys have distribution in the state of Virginia in the US? My wife manages a wine strore and I think you’d be a good fit. I haven’t been able to locate it anywhere.


  2. More and more bottles seem to come with screw caps. I’ve never had a problem with them but I do notice that most tend to come form outside the U.S. I thin here, California in particular, we are suck on the nostalgia of the cork. It is part of the wine experience. Old habits are hard to break as they say.

  3. @Rob: I agree. Uncorking the wine is also part of a social object (which wine is according to Hugh Macleod :))

    And one more thing. Correct me if Im wrong. Isn’t there a thin layer of plastic inside a screwcap? Doesn’t it reacts with wine similar to plastic corks?

  4. Why do you convince us that cork is bad for wine and tell us you use cork on your best wine?

  5. Jason Korman

    Rob, Agree completely. There is something charming about the ceremony of pulling a cork and I do miss that. The barrier on the cap can be aluminum or an inert plastic sheet, but it is not the extruded sort used for plastic corks. The real problem with plastic corks is that they make an imperfect seal and wines tend to oxidize more quickly than with natural cork.

    Jeremy, the issue has also to do with availability and cost. Corks are graded by quality. If we could get enough “A” grade corks, and they weren’t $2.00 + a piece, then we’d actually like to use more of them. However, even the best corks are not as good as a screw cap when it comes to keeping freshly made white wines, bright, and deliciously crisp. So, for wines like Sauvignon Blanc, there is nothing better. If I had the budget and wanted to age a big red for a long time, “A” grade cork would win.

  6. Some interesting information… thanks! I believe there is a place for both cork and screw caps in the wine industry, and wine labels just need to find a balance that satisfies the market.

    Brandon Marc

  7. We are a manufacturer and exporter in China specializing in wine & spirit accessories and related artwork design. Besides, we are the strategic partners of several manufacturers to tailor-made different wine & spirit accessories. Our company welcomes the OEM and ODM customers. We specialize in tail-made wine accessories. We can offer gift packs to customers with personalized designs and logos. Please visit our website for more information.

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    Except for recreational purposes we replaced steam trains with diesels as we progressed, now at long last progress has caught up with wine bottle closures. Have you ever opened a 18-21 year old magnificent wine only to find it corked? It’s no joy at all. I’ve had it happen to a 1988 Chateau Latour recently.
    Just from a practical point of view screw caps are soooo much easier to use that cork- lots of people struggle with a cork screw. When boating, at the beach or hicking a simple twist is dramatically easier than trying to remove a cork.
    RIP the cork Long Live the Screwcap

  9. David Austin

    I always now buy screw top bottles as they are usually easier to get in to and easier to seal. Today I tried to open a screw top bottle of Stormhoek Sauvignon 2008 and the cap just went round and round. I tried gripping it with a wrench which also failed to break the seal so ended up using a hacksaw to cut round the seal so I could get the top off !!!. Come on Stormhoek nobody is going to buy your wine if you need a hacksaw to open the bottle!

  10. Jason Korman

    Okay Dave, yes you got the technique down. It does require a hacksaw. We’ll send you a free bottle if you ping me.

    The cause of the problem is: When the wine is bottled, the caps go on the bottle and are straight, there is then a capper head that automatically comes down on the bottle top and crimps the cap into the grooves on the bottle neck. There are occasions when the crimper is not precisely aligned and the result will be a cap that does not “twist free” when it is opened. It will just spin, as you suggested.

    We figure it is on about .025% of the bottles, which is better than 7% of the corked bottles that are fouled by cork taint. HOWEVER, I am sure that you did notice after your hacksawed the cap off, that the wine was bright and fresh?!

    Sorry for the inconvenience.

    BTW, your innovative solution to the cap challenge means that we were meant for each other. This is the sort of reason why we put the hacker emblem on the back label.


  11. ricardo alexandre

    os vinhos emgarrafados co screwcap ele pode ser armazenado
    por muinto tempo.e vinho ao decorre do tempo ele vai evolui
    alguma coisa assim como a rolha

  12. Cork Advocate

    I have to interject here. Cork is actually an amazing product. It is a very green, sustainable product. Much of the information out there now about Cork has been put there for advocated for screw caps. The cork industry did itself a giant dis-service by not combating the smear campaign when it started and now is forced to be on the defensive rather than offensive.

    Most of the issues form cork stem from quality control. 10-20 years ago Portugal was sending their lowest corks to the US because our wine industry was considered inferior, but now because of increased quality demand, “corked” is not nearly as common as one might think. Additionally it is a bastardized term that people use when they just feel something is ‘off’ with the wine. Could be a plethora of other issues, but “corked” is easier to blame.

    Take a good look at all of the beautiful wines produced and you will find in the red and white aging areanas corks are a far superior closure method. They allow the natural passage of air and CO2 so the wine can age properly.

    Even those New Zealand advocates are now starting to turn back to cork because of the rampid amounts of brettanomyces, bottles becoming unscrewed, et cetera. So before you go too far into the “it’s all about nostalgia” take a good look at where you are getting your facts from and go green!

  13. Linish Sagar (Blue Global FZE)

    Subject: Cost-effective ROPP closures (Aluminium screw caps for wines) from India

    We are Nipra Industries Pvt. Ltd., manufacturers of ROPP closures (aluminium screw caps) and other metal packaging in India.

    We have been in this business for over 27 years and have been able to build a strong position in this industry. Some key factors that distinguish us are;

    1. Low cost producer (largest consumer of aluminium closure stock in India with yearly consumption of over 3600 tonnes)
    2. Multi location manufacturing (6 factories in India)
    3. Close proximity to India’s most efficient port (we are 180 kms from JNPT, Mumbai)
    4. Complete range of closure sizes and styles (sizes ranging from 18mm to 30/60mm with side chamfering and dry-offset printing capabilities)

    These factors have helped our customers in India and over 15 countries globally to benefit in their closure procurement. We are approved suppliers to Diageo, UK (world’s largest spirit manufacturer) and United Spirits Ltd., India (the 3rd largest spirit manufacturer) amongst others.

    We can provide a good solution to your company (Stormhoek Winery) for the procurement of aluminium screw caps.

    We request you to kindly direct this email to the right person (incharge of procurement) to take this forward.

    Best regards,

    Linish Sagar
    Managing Director
    Blue Global FZE
    Mobile +97150 3676517

    (Blue Global FZE are the agents for Nipra Industries Pvt Ltd)

  14. The question here is an ecological one. Cork is a renewable resource – it is taken off the trees that regrow it. These trees – cork oaks – are the backbone of an entire ecosystem in Spain and Portugal. If people stop using cork, there will be no incentive to protect the forests against being bulldozed for roads and condos. And the oak forests are a very precious wildlife area.


    Tolerate the very slight chance of having a corked wine (and though we drink a lot of wine, I have never had a “corked” wine bought in the last ten years) and maintain the Iberian Peninsula’s natural beauty

    John Humphreys
    PS – and I love the sound too!


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