The Cork and the Screw Top

The cork and the screw top — is one better than the other? Here’s a quick overview of both.

The Cork
A cork is traditional and romantic — who doesn’t have memories of bungling an attempt to pop a cork at a most inopportune moment — or smile at the satisfaction of getting that “pop” just right? Cork has the unique feature of being just porous enough to let wine breath while keeping harmful oxygen out. It is this feature that makes cork particularly good for aging and why it is still used by most prestigious vintners.

Cork, however, is also expensive, and prone to malfunction. There’s nothing worse than opening that prized bottle of wine only to be met with the musty funky odor of cork rot. Unfortunately, once a bottle has been compromised by a bad cork, it’s completely unsalvageable.

The Screw Top
Although there were rumors that screw tops gained prominence because of a global cork shortage, this is not altogether true. Cork is a renewable resource but not an infinite one and, although the world may not be running out, cork production has not quite caught up to the frenetic pace with which the world’s wine production has grown.

Many wine makers turned to screw tops because, yes, they were less expensive than cork and they were able to pass on some of those savings to the consumers, making their wine more attractively priced. However, screw tops are also a great way to ensure that not a single bottle of a batch will suffer from cork rot and that the content of those bottles will be more consistent. Screw tops are not an indicator of bad or cheap wine!

Wines with screw tops are not wines meant for aging – they’re wines made for everyday drinking or relatively quick consumption. Corks, on the other hand, are great if you plan to cellar your wine for a few years — or a few decades.