Nothing Screwy about These Caps

Does the idea of a screw cap wine leave you with a sense of unease? Does it feel confusing, uncouth, or like a gateway drug to boxed wines? For the record, there are some excellent boxed wine options out there now – but that’s for another discussion.

Yes, screw caps were initially used by the giant glass jugs of wine which are produced with the motto of quantity over quality, that are best used for the purposes of cooking and emergency situations. The wine screw cap was invented in 1959 by a French company, but their takeover was stopped by consumers eschewing the idea of a cork free bottling, and the screw cap remained a symbol of bottom shelf juice.

Blame it on Y2K or ingenuity, but in the early 2000s, winemakers in Australia and New Zealand started using screw caps – even on their higher end bottles. Combine this with a drastic rise in popularity of these wine growing regions, and you see a consumer base growing slightly more comfortable with the concept.

So what’s the deal? Are screw caps alright – or dare I say – better? Someone at a picnic who has forgotten the corkscrew would definitely agree with both. But as for quality, winemakers are experimenting and discovering what wines may benefit from screw caps versus corks. For example, producers often use screw caps for white wines and reds that are meant to be consumed young, while using corks for bigger age worthy wines that will benefit from the tiny bit of oxygen that makes its way through the porous cork. It’s all about nuance.

Will we someday see the shelves lined exclusively with screw capped wines? Probably not. For high-end winemakers, the jury is still out on screw caps. The immediate benefits have paled in comparison to tried and true winemaking tradition. But as a consumer, don’t fear the screw cap! It does not signal a cheap or low quality wine, simply a winemaker’s choice.