Screw Screw Caps Caps Story by Mark Beres Story by Mark Beres courtesy of Flying LeapLeap Vineyards Photos courtesy of Flying Vineyards Photos by Swift Family Photography
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about visiting henhen outout andand about visiting Arizona’s wineries, we see Arizona’s wineries, we see a vast array of wonderful a vast array of wonderful wines styles, wines andand styles, butbut havehave scrutinized youyou everever scrutinized howhow the the are really two groups bottles sealed? ThereThere are really two groups of of bottles are are sealed?
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– those natural and those wineswines – those sealedsealed with with natural cork cork and those sealedsealed alternatives, as screw Which with with cork cork alternatives, such such as screw caps.caps. Which is is better? The answer cutdried…. and dried…. better? The answer is notissonot cutsoand all, sealing is important because the seal First First of all,ofsealing wine wine is important because the seal separates the wine theand air,of and of course separates the wine fromfrom the air, course keepskeeps the wine fromfrom leaking. Air contains oxygen, whichwhich can can the wine leaking. Air contains oxygen, causecause the most common of allof wine faultsfaults – oxidation. the most common all wine – oxidation. WhenWhen wine wine oxidizes, it loses its vibrant colorcolor and sparkle; oxidizes, it loses its vibrant and sparkle; develops unpleasant earthy aromas; and its bright, fruit fruit develops unpleasant earthy aromas; and its bright, can become flatlifeless. and lifeless. In a filled flavorflavor can become flat and In a filled bottlebottle of of is a small amount of head between wine,wine, therethere is a small amount of head spacespace between the the andseal, the where seal, where oxygen canonactthe onwine the wine wine wine and the oxygen can act eventually dissolving into it. Researchers believe itself,itself, eventually dissolving into it. Researchers believe that some dissolved oxygen in wine makes for very that some dissolved oxygen in wine makes for very pleasant the concentration of oxygen pleasant flavor,flavor, but asbut theasconcentration of oxygen rises,rises, the flaws develop and strengthen, eventually ruining the flaws develop and strengthen, eventually ruining the the altogether and making it undrinkable. wine wine altogether and making it undrinkable. Thus,Thus, the the is critical inathat a good seal protects the wine seal isseal critical in that good seal protects the wine fromfrom excessive oxidation, butallows also allows for some breathing excessive oxidation, but also for some breathing to to sothe thatwine the wine canand agemature and mature properly. occuroccur so that can age properly.
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Flying Leap Vineyards 342 Elgin Road, Elgin, AZ 85611 FlyingLeapVineyards.com
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Traditionally, natural cork has been the preferred seal in use since the early 1400s. Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, which is indigenous to southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa. Seventy percent of the world’s cork comes from forests in Portugal, Spain and France. Cork trees cannot be harvested until they are 25 years old, and the trees produce good cork for about 300 years. Their bark is stripped every nine years. High-quality cork is very expensive, so it is typically reserved for higher-valued wines. Though considered to be impermeable, natural cork does pass oxygen through its fiber, but it does so at such a slow rate that it is considered to be ideal for the proper aging of fine wine. Therefore, the primary benefits of natural cork are: its ability to properly age wine through slow oxygen transmission, and it is a natural, renewable resource. Screw tops have been in use since 1964, and were developed primarily due to the rising cost of natural cork. These seals became even more popular in the 1980s, during a period when poor-quality cork was being produced and giving rise to incidents of TCA (also known as “cork taint,” the chemical contaminent 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole that can destroy wine). Today, screw tops are very popular because of their low cost (oftentimes a third of the price of natural cork for a comparable seal) and the protection they offer against cork taint. Though advances in seal permeability have improved the screw top’s ability to age wine in a way comparable to cork, the seal still suffers from its image as a “cheap” seal. This is changing, however, as many producers are sealing high-end wines using screw tops, and their image will likely continue to change as customers become more familiar with them. So which seal is better? The correct answer is that they both are good seals, with unique pros and cons. Corks are more traditional, preferred for pricier wines and are widely considered to be an ideal seal for aging fine wines. Screw tops have improved significantly, are much more cost effective than natural cork and do not introduce TCA into the wine. We’ll let you be the judge. Cheers!
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