A lot of people have been talking about alternative closures for a bottle of wine. The reason, of course, is that the traditional closure the cork isn't perfect. Cork, like wine itself, is an agricultural product, and like wine, cork can have flaws. When cork fails, the results can be disastrous and costly. Elio Altare, for example, had to pour away the entire production of his 1997 Barolos because of failed corkage. That cost Mr. Altare and the cork producer hundreds of thousands of dollars, and trust me, the loss of a year's worth of loving effort cost more than a few tears too.
For a while we heard a lot about plastic corks. In a strange echo across the decades, we were told "there is a great future in plastics." And like the hesitant Ben in 1967 classic film "The
Graduate," we weren't sure about it. Right now, the screw top is in the spotlight. It's gotten praise from several winemakers in both the new and the old world, and from what seems like the entire country of Australia, where the screw top is being exalted as the cure that solves all the problems. Like the cover girl du jour, the screw top has been on the front of several wine magazines recently, and a blitz of marketing has even lead to a debate about the proper way to open a screw top bottle in fine restaurants.
Whether the screw top really is a panacea is not an issue to be decided soon. The traditional cork has been used for centuries and we know there are pros and cons of using it. We know it can be good for wine, controlling that subtle refinement that wine undergoes in the bottle, and we know it can be destructive. Experimentation with other forms of sealers has just begun and with only a decade or so of experience, we don't know much about how wine will change and develop over time with anything but a cork.
Personally, I'm not a fan of the screw top. I do have some wine with plastic corks, mostly whites and reds that don't need any cellaring. I don't want to jump into the argument here (although I do find the amount of press, and the amount of positive press in particular, a bit suspicious) but I would like people to keep in mind is that; no one can make any conclusive judgment, against or in favor, of any new wine closures at this time. If it turns out that the screw top is, in fact, like The Wolf from the 1994 classic "Pulp Fiction" and "solves the problems," I will be happy to admit it. But, of course, by the time we know for sure, I might not be alive!
Buona Bevuta a Tutti!