Wine Expert Explains Why Screw Tops Are Better Than Corks On Wine Bottles

Forget the corkscrew.
Edsel Querini via Getty Images

You probably do it without realizing: You see a bottle of wine with a screw top and assume it’s a cheap bottle of wine. This, friends, is actually wrong (in many cases, at least).

Screw top may have once been reserved for cheap jugs of red, but no longer. Good wineries are getting hip to this easy-to-open enclosure, and wine expert and importer Jessica Brady explains why.

1. You don’t have to worry about it being corked.

Screw top wine cannot be corked, because there is no cork.

A corked wine is not one that has little pieces of broken cork in the bottle. Rather, it’s a wine that’s been contaminated with cork taint, which affects the smell and taste of wine. Cork taint is the presence of a chemical compound called TCA, which occurs when a natural fungi (which is only sometimes found in cork) is treated with chlorinated phenolic compounds (which is found in products used to sterilize bottles). And TCA ruins good bottles by making them taste and smell like a musty basement.

“General rule of thumb with wine under actual cork is that an average of one in every 12 bottles is corked,” Brady told HuffPost. Those are not very good odds. “It’s so painful when you’ve been waiting 10 years to open a bottle only to find it’s corked. That doesn’t happen with with Stelvin enclosures,” Brady elaborated. FYI, Stelvin enclosures are what they call screw tops in the wine industry.

Wine can become oxidized in screw top wines, just like it can with wines under cork, which is a result of extreme hot or cold conditions. But humans can avoid subjecting wines to these unforgiving temperatures, and so it’s easier to control than the problem of corked wines (which is up to the cork, really).

2. You don’t have to bother with a corkscrew.

This is huge. “I love Stelvin enclosures just because of accessibility,” shares Brady. “Having a bottle of wine and realizing you don’t have a wine opener is terrible.”

It’s true. And while it can make you get creative, as we’ve seen with so many unusual wine-corking methods, it’s still a pain. Brady shared an anecdote about what happens when you don’t have a cork. “Our winery Mirabeau in Provence is owned by Stephen Cronk ― he’s the one who had the Youtube video where he tried to open a bottle of wine with his shoe.” See? Crazy measures.

So, why bother with cork? “People still use cork for romance,” explains Brady. “And old-world vineyards are die-hard cork fanatics.”

3. It’s better for the wine.

The screw top ensures that no oxygen is going to get into the wine, which helps to keep young whites and reds crisp. Though some folks do believe that bigger, fuller wines benefit from a little bit of oxygen that wines under cork receive.

“Nice Bordeaux are using screw top, it started like 25 years ago so they’ve got some Premier Cru Bordeaux under Stelvin enclosure now. We make some of our single vineyard wines under Stelvin enclosure,” shared Brady, “It’s just better for the wine at the end of the day.”

We’ll drink to that!