Fusty wine traditionalists bemoaning the advent of the screw-cap era can stick a cork in it. While the debate over bottles being sealed with a cork or a screw cap continues among graying lovers of the grape, a 10-year case study, completed by the Australian Wine Research Institute, has already shown what many forward-thinking vintners have been saying for years: For protecting flavor in wines meant to be drunk while young, the screw cap is tops.
“Millennials couldn’t give a shit if it’s under a screw cap; it’s only the older generation of drinkers who care,” notes Michael Madrigale of Boulud Sud in New York, who was named one of Food & Wine’s sommeliers of the year for 2012.
Perhaps a new comparison study of some 600 botttles of Cade sauvignon blanc at the University of California at Davis, to be completed by summer 2013, will settle things once and for all for those committed to the romantic thwack of a cork being removed from their favorite vintage—admittedly, a sound that’s hard to resist, even for Madrigale, who relishes the aesthetic “ceremony of pulling a cork.”
But you don’t need a team of researchers to figure out that screw tops eliminate the risk of trichloroanisole (TCA) contamination, or “cork taint,” which produces skunky smells and tastes that render even the most delicious reserve undrinkable.
The screw cap does, however, come with its own Achilles’ heel: The tops can be damaged more easily in transit (or, ahem, if boozily knocked around), according to Madrigale. That’s why he recommends the lower-priced selections. “If a $19.99 bottle comes undone, it’s a lot easier pill to swallow than a $1,000 bottle,” notes Madrigale, who insists screw-cap wines are nothing to sniff at. He proudly pours and drinks them himself.
Schrager’s Top 10 Screw-cap Wines
Lee Brian Schrager, of Southern Wine & Spirits of America, shares his favorite twist-off bottles that are suitable for friends, family and, yes, even formal guests.
Pinot Noir 2010 & Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Marlborough, New Zealand
Cloudy Bay helped put New Zealand on the map as a high-quality-producing wine region, and these are two favorites that pair well with any dish.
Deep flavors and an exceptional value, certainly a standout red from South Africa.
Doña Paula Los Cardos
Rated best value by Wine Spectator, this estate-grown and -bottled wine has rich fruit flavors.
Fumé Blanc 2011
Sonoma County, California
This crisp white melds hints of melon and citrus with a grassy aroma for a well-balanced wine that is especially great for outdoor entertaining.
La Segreta Rosso
This blend from Menfi uses a few grape varieties: nero d’Avola, Merlot, syrah and cabernet franc.
With its bold taste, this deep Australian red stands up well next to a hearty steak dinner.
Fonte Al Sole 2010
Made of Sangiovese and cabernet grapes, this wine balances strong and soft flavors.
Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Sonoma County, California
Light and airy, 100 percent of its fermentation process happens in stainless steel tanks for a smooth flavor more tropical than expected.
This big black fruit bowl brims with the tastes of plum, blackberry, black cherry, black pepper and spice.