Are screw tops better for your bottle of wine?
If you thought screw-cap wines were naff, think again. Alice King investigates the various options for closing wine and gets turned on by the humble bottle top
There was a time when you could always spot the cheap guests at a dinner party. They were the ones who brought a bottle of wine with horror of horrors a screw cap. If you were lucky, youd notice immediately and hide it at the back of a cupboard, or quickly decant it and drink it only once drunk enough not to care.
If you were unlucky, youd be at the dinner table, corkscrew at the ready. Youd strip off the foil then realise oh no, its a screw cap. Embarrassed for your friends, youd say nothing and gingerly sip the cheap plonk as if it was goats blood.
At one point, screw-cap wine really was the epitome of cheapness and bad taste. Thats why wine drinkers were perplexed by the news a few years ago that more than 25 New Zealand estates were abandoning the cork and releasing their 2001 vintages with screw-cap closures.
Then came the news that 15 Riesling producers were also screwing up their 2001 wines. Tests on cork-closed wine by one producer revealed that up to 25 per cent of wines were corked that is, tainted with a musty taste. Something had to be done, and the screw cap appeared to be the answer.
So, whats all the fuss? Are corks really a pain in the neck? Are synthetic corks any better? And is the screw-cap the way ahead, given its poor public reception? There was just one option: I had to start opening a lot of bottles of wine and find out for myself.