Will corkless wines stand the test of time, or should they just screw off?
Screw cap wines have become increasingly common, making up 30 percent of wine bottles on the market. And if your favorite bottle happens to be under a screw cap, what is the harm in aging some for the future? To learn if screw cap wines are worth cellaring, VinePair spoke with Stephen Giroux, sommelier at Fausto in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Yes, you can age screw cap wine. It’s plausible, but it doesn’t mean you should,” says Giroux. There is a significant difference between normal screw caps used on plastic bottles and those used in wine, which have been developed to maintain the wine’s quality even after extensive travel. And it just so happens that some screw caps even have oxygenation potential, allowing for prolonged aging.
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In recent years, screw caps have become a symbol of modern innovation in the wine industry. The classic cork is prone to degrading, and 5 percent of all wines with corks are infected with cork taint. Even aging a wine with a cork for a considerable amount of time is a gamble with those stats. Screw caps, in comparison, are more airtight. The only real flaws that occur in these bottles come from improper storage or the rare case of bacteria being trapped by the metal.
In fact, many experiments and test runs have been performed to see whether or not screw cap wine can age. In 2000, winemakers from Australia’s Clare Valley — a region known for its Riesling — put 250,000 bottles of their wines under screw caps and allowed them to age. In 2006, they determined that those wines were aging characteristically, becoming rounder and more complex each year, and concluded that the Stelvin screw cap was ideal for storing and aging wines for long periods in a bottle.
But just because you can doesn’t mean you should age a wine. Some grape varieties aren’t meant to be aged for long periods of time, and many of these wines are bottled under screw caps. Think of Sauvingon Blanc, which is quintessentially tart and fresh. Aging out those flavors and mellowing the wine would be a disservice. “When I see a screw cap wine, I automatically assume that it isn’t meant to be aged,” says Giroux. “It’s the medium itself. With screw caps, I think of immediacy and that the winemaker wants you to drink it as soon as possible. They make those decisions with intention.”
So while a screw cap should not be an immediate red flag for collectors, there are certain things you should look for if you want to experiment with aging wines with different closures. “To set yourself up for success with aging a screw cap wine, look for something that already has body, tannin, and structure — like an Australian Riesling or a Shiraz,” says Giroux. “Screw caps already have so much working against them; give it a leg up.”