When has there been more controversy over the seal of a beverage since cork vs screwcap? Why do people care so much? Should you care? What does it say about the wine?
There has long been debate between cork vs screw cap — historically and between this husband and wife team. For the record, Michel has always been team cork, and me not so much. There are more options than ever including crown caps, glass stoppers, and zorks, in addition to the many different types of synthetic and natural corks and screw cap options. Not to mention cans, bags and boxes! For the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to focus on the 3 closures that we use: Stelvin screw caps, natural cork, and crown caps.
I’ll start with Stelvin screw caps as that’s where we started out. Michel’s argument against them, and his desire to go all in on cork, is as it is for most people, rooted in tradition and ceremony. I prefer the screw cap though for its practicalness, approachability, and its ability to keep wines tasting fresh while still allowing them to evolve in the bottle, but at a slower rate than cork (I’ll get into that next). Bonus points for it being exponentially more affordable and never having to worry about corked wines. They are a great option of a wine that should be opened within 10 years and I hope the future of wine consumers are less judgemental of them.
Cork. I have to say it took me a while to come around, but I’m so glad Michel convinced me to begin considering cork with our Petit Verdot in 2017. This wine really does need the time in bottle to help it soften. That is just the nature of the variety, and cork helps it do that. I’m just going to quote a Wine Enthusiast article here because I think they explain it perfectly.
"Thanks to its elasticity, cork expands within a bottleneck to seal liquid in and keep oxygen out. Its tiny pores, however, allow minuscule amounts of air to interact with the wine, which can transform the aroma and flavor over time. This makes cork the top choice for producers of age worthy wines."
Of course you can’t talk about cork with our bringing up TCA, also known as tainted or “corked” wine. This is where the discussion gets heated. Many people feel uncomfortable sending back a bottle of corked wine. Even worse is when someone doesn’t realize a wine is corked and just assumes it is an awful or at best, dull wine. (I want to take this opportunity to say please, if you have one of our wines and think it might be corked, please let us know and we will replace it! Life’s too short to drink corked wine and we want to be able to assure you that the wine is not suppose to taste like that.)
At one point TCA had been said to affect up to 10% of wines, but thanks to advancements in the industry that number is somewhere closer to 1-3%. This is one of the many reason we have for slowly moving away from Stelvin closures in lieu of cork for most of our wines. Additionally with our distribution growing, cork allows our wines to be coravined for by-the-glass programs at restaurants. Lastly and evolving out of pure necessity, we have started to bottle smaller lots by hand which presented us with two options — cork or crown cap, and we are all the better now for it.
Speaking of — the newest closure that we’ve embraced is the crown cap. More commonly known for sealing beer bottles and sparkling wine, crown caps seemed like a great alternative for wines meant to be drunk within 1-2 years like the carbonic wines of Weird Parties and the slightly effervescent Over Easys. Our closures are lined to prevent any wine-to-metal contact and sealed airtight, so the wine is preserved as is at the time of bottling. Made for popping open and enjoying sooner rather than later. The misconception though, is that all beverages sealed under this closure are bubbly but that does not necessarily need to be the case or the reason.
We think we’ve finally achieved an ideal balance. We use the word “balance” in lieu of “compromise” because I don’t think we’ve made any concessions. Our wines are sealed with the closure that makes the most sense for each individual wine and its requirements at the time of bottling. There are a lot of other factors that go into our decisions as well, such as sustainability, price, and availability. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The short and sweet of why we do what we do... for now. Just like wine, we’re constantly evolving.