Wine Wednesday: Caps vs. Corks

July 2, 2014

In July's Wine Wednesday, we focus on what keeps the wine in the bottle. Usually that means a cork, but these days things are a bit different. In fact, there is more than one way to seal a bottle.

In the old days, the only wine you could find with a cap was the cheap stuff.

"The screw cap still suffers from a stigma associated with cheap wine," says Veritas Vineyard and Winery proprietor Andrew Hodson.

That stigma is quickly fading. Technology is making the cap seal more and more common.

"I really think now that there's been a major change in understanding and acceptance by the public of screw caps," says Hodson.

At Veritas Winery, all the white wines come with a cap, as well as one variety of red wine. You may be asking, why the change? One reason is price. A cap seal costs about a third as much as a cork, but the bigger reason is about quality.

"In terms of quality control, cork has too many variables," adds Hodson. "With a cap seal you know exactly what you're dealing with."

Here's how it works: for 400 years, corks have been used because they expand, and can be used to let in only a small minute amount of oxygen to help age the wine. The problem is, it's not 100% reliable, and when that happens, the wine goes bad, or, corks.

"The cork taint makes the wine taste sort of moldy. It takes away all the nice, fresh aromas, and it gives you the smell of a moldy old cellar," says Hodson.

With technology improvements, the aluminum caps can now be engineered to let in the same amount of oxygen without the risk of corking. However, if you are thinking long term, tradition might be the way to go.

"For an everyday wine consumer, a cap seal is perfectly fine," says Hodson. "If you want to age your wine for 10 years, and you've got the money and the resources to do that, then cork is preferable because we know it works. There's never been a cap seal tried for 100 years."

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