QUESTION: Do screw caps on wine bottles indicate a cheap wine?

No.  Cheap wine indicates cheap wine.  There is an issue with corks as a small percentage of them will cause a problem with the wine in the bottle.  The most famous of these is TCA which is a bacterium that, while harmless, can cause a wine to smell and taste muted at best or like wet cardboard at worse.  Other issues are imperfect seals which cause a wine to age prematurely.

Many people think that screw caps present a better alternative.  While the debate rages on, some producers have switched to screw caps for their wines.  They know this will eliminate much of the TCA infection of their wines.  The question still arises as to how well the screw cap will work as a long term solution.  There is also a market perception issue in that many people still associate a screw cap with cheap wine.  This is a matter of education and time. Loren Sonkin is an Featured Contributor and the Founder/Winemaker at Sonkin Cellars 

Not at all. The technology for screw tops on wine bottles is referred to as “Stelvin”, key to the Stelvin screw top is the inert plastic seal which prevents oxidation. Some of the best wines in the world are now closed with a screw top. For instance, almost all New Zealand wines, considered producers of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world, are sealed with screw tops. Some great wine makers, such as Randal Grahm of Bonny Doon, have gone screw top for all their wines. Wines can age just as long with a screw top. Today, I wish all wine was bottled with screw tops, with the exception of some traditional wines that I do like to see with a natural cork. I hate synthetic corks of all types.

I once thought that screw tops cheapened a wine. I remember, when I was staying with the Hill Smith family at Yalumba in Australia in 1980 when I was working crush at their winery, one evening they poured me a beautiful wine called Pewseyvale Rhine Riesling. They asked what I thought of the wine. I said it was “superb but I hope you never bottle your wine with a screw top”. To my embarrassment, I found out that this was one of their wines. They then explained that, remember this was in 1980, there had already been 20 years of experimentation with Stelvin scew tops and that the results were proving that wine can age just as well with screw tops as they can do with corks. I learnt a lesson and have been convinced of the quality of Stelvin ever since. It is education versus perception. Bartholomew Broadbent, CEO of Broadbent Selections

To provide diverse, unbiased, and independent advice, Bartholomew and Loren answer all user submitted questions without consulting one another. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they don't. Always interesting though. Have a wine question for them? Submit it via our Contact Us form