Historically, “pulling cork” is iconic to the wine experience. “Pulling plastic” and “twisting screw cap”, not so much. Closure opens up a wine world quandary.
Two problems. First, while cork is almost an ideal closure, it has a flaw—contamination with TCA, a chemical that gives wine a musky odor and affects taste. TCA is present in less than one in 20 corks and can have little impact even when it does—but sometimes it makes wine undrinkable. Second, the worldwide wine boom stresses cork production and increases cost. Stressed cork production increases cases of TCA contamination.
Two solutions. Synthetic plastic corks and aluminum twist caps. Not sexy, they have advantages.
There is agreement both non-cork closures work for wine intended for consumption soon after making—the overwhelming majority. Non-cork closures reduce costs and eliminate TCA. They allow bottles to be stored upright—upright actually is better since it keeps wine away from the plastic cork or twist cap liner.
No closure is perfect. Synthetic corks are harder to extract, difficult to re-cork, sometimes permit harmful oxygen penetration, but they look like a cork and produce the cork-pull “pop!” Twist caps are easy to open, easy to re-close, and prevent oxygen penetration, but people associate screw caps with inferior wine, inhibiting sales.
Cork has its place—oxygen in the cork itself helps finish wine. For wines aged for 10 years or more, cork is the unchallenged king until others prove themselves. For everything else: pull the plastic, twist the cap without fear or humiliation.
• Marques de Caceres Dry White. Harmonious Spanish white, melon, lemon, lime. Twist cap. $9.50
• Routas Rose Rouviere. Vibrant, dry, full-flavored French rosé, nice finesse. Plastic cork.
• Kim Crawford Pinot Noir. Looks luscious, strong cherry aroma, significant acidity—bold for a Pinot. New Zealand twist cap. $22