Screw it! (or how I came to believe in screw caps and other alternative wine closures)

Like many a wine lover, I was raised on cork. I loved the experience of opening a bottle of wine. I loved the sound. I loved the ‘romance’ of it all.

While I noted over the years the various alternative closures being used, I never took much interest in them. Screw caps? Screw that! I love my cork. Vino Loks? Vino what? Forget about it.

This was my mantra for years. I heard the discussion that was going on but always thought that cork had won the battle or had at least won the battle with me.

Until now.

I come to you as a convert. The thing is, I am tired of corked bottles. TCA tainted bottles that is. Part of wine, for me, is the joy of buying wine, cellaring it, and anticipating the day when you open it with a group of friends you are excited to share it with.

I can think of one such example from several years ago. I spent a great deal of time thinking about the perfect wine to bring to a good friend’s birthday party. After much deliberation, I arrived at the perfect choice (the perfect choice).


Happy birthday! What a great start to your new year. What’s this? Your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary party? Better luck next year. Johnny’s big day? He’ll have a few more right? How may stories go like this?

Recently I have gone through a series of bottles, some of which I have been particularly excited about and some of which have just been an every day bottle of wine. But numerous times I have arrived at the same place.


And this is what brings me here today. I am simply tired of corked bottles of wine.

Here are the big problems with corked wine bottles in my mind. First, for those special occasions, do you really bring a backup bottle each time just in case? And even if you do, it’s like, “After talking that bottle up to you, here’s the bottle that was the runner-up!” Drag. And when a bottle is corked, does anyone listen if you say, “It’s not my fault!”? No. You are impugned.

Second, how many people out there reading this find a corked bottle of wine and bring it back to the winery or the wine store? Personally, I do so very infrequently. Why? Many times these are bottles that I have held onto for numerous years. The money is long gone. What was important is what was in the bottle. I find myself rarely able to muster the energy to call a winery or wine shop or stop by and say, “I have a bottle of this YEAR wine from YOUR WINERY HERE that I bought LONG AGO, and it’s flawed. Could you credit me for it if you can remember what you charged me for it? Or better yet, could you send a bottle over right now because I was opening it for a special occasion?”

Doesn’t happen. Most consumers do not bring corked wines back to wineries or wine stores. Rather, they just think 1) it’s a bad bottle of wine – as in, YOU MAKE/SELL BAD WINE - or 2) they know it’s corked and they just pour it down the drain or 3) they don’t know the difference (lucky them).

Every one loses in these scenarios. Perhaps the wine steward recommended the wine. “I won’t trust him again!” the patron thinks. Perhaps it is a bottle from some storied winery. “Overrated!” the consumer thinks. “I won’t buy from them again.” Even for consumers who know the bottle is corked and that it is not the fault of the winery, it is hard to muster the energy to try to get the money back or replace the bottle because the moment and money is quite simply, gone. The damage is done.

There has been a long discussion about various closure types. I’ve read it. I’ve heard it. I used to dismiss it. No more. I’m ready for alternative closures. I’m simply tired of corked bottles. Screw caps? Vino Loks? Zorks? Bring ‘em on.

Next week on this topic, a post on Washington wineries using alternative closures and what their experience has been.

Sean P. Sullivan


  1. I love Stelvin caps and hope to see them on more high-end bottles like Australian wines.
    However, I do not think it is a resolution to the end of cork taint, or TCA, as it can somehow creep into the wine before bottling (poor winery hygiene).
    Screw caps have its own problem...sulphidisation. Although I have not encountered that yet, I am not looking forward to opening a bottle of wine and smelling something akin to 'morning breeze'.

  2. haven't researched this myself, but what is the prevailing opinion on screw caps vs cork when it comes to ageability, or is this a non-factor?

  3. Anon, will post some thoughts on this next week when I discuss what some Washington wineries are using and why. Stay tuned.

  4. Can they make a screw-cork? The romance of a cork is one thing that will always inspire wine lovers. A cork from a bottle of wine opens up endless possibilities-relationships beginning, friendships begun, interesting discussions, etc. A screw cap does the same thing, except it's a lot quicker getting to the start. I am a fan of screw caps or glass corks. I've had maybe 4 or 5 corked wines out of 300 wines. Way below the average. But I was disappointed none the less. I think the screw cap is the death-knell of the cork. We don't still use rotary dial phones, black and white tvs, beta tapes, or 8-tracks. The future moves on.
    With or without those who live in it.

  5. As far as whites go, I don't think ageability is a factor. I've enjoyed many whites out of screw cap and actually prefer my whites bottles this way. The wine just seems more fresh with some added zip. It very well could be in my head, but I dig it!