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Cork or Screwcap, But For The Love of God, Do Not Use The Plastic Plug!!

Editor’s Note: In our recent effort to bring people from every wine culture together, the EWBC network has started a monthly debate on topics that effect us all. This month, the topic is alternative closures. We have asked wine bloggers from across the world to join in and publish their views on alternative closures between September 22nd through the 26th. Everyone is welcome to join in and share your thoughts. We only ask that you please post your article in the comment section of this EWBC post. Hopefully, we will gain enough participation to eventually show the power of social media!

Guess what time it is? It’s the biannual ritual of talking about closures again. This is the time of the year when we state our preference for one over another – bitching and moaning about TCA taint, reduction or sticky plastic corks. Why do we do this? Well, it’s an easy topic and usually gets people riled up, while at the same time, making us feel that we are finally standing up for something.

Here at Catavino, our thinking has evolved from an off and on hate relationship with cork to more of a friend with fringe benefits. Currently, we’re on good standing, but aren’t quite ready to exchange house keys and buy matching travel luggage. We love the idea of cork, and its sustainable properties, but we still love our screwcaps for those fresh whites and young reds. Much to our chagrin, however, we’re finding more and more plastic corks here in Spain, and only one or two screwcap wines.

So let us state for the record that WE HATE plastic corks, and if there are bodegas out there listening, DUMP THE PLASTIC and go with the SCREWCAP!! In the words of an American footwear philosopher, Just do it! It makes sense. Plus, those stupid plastic corks are just downright annoying. They’re hard to pull out, and regardless of how much you struggle and twist and tug, with all your might, when it does finally come out, you either hit yourself in the face or spill wine all over the new carpet. Not to mention the fact that you can’t make a trivet from a plastic cork. And, more importantly, the last thing this planet needs is more plastic. We will start recommending against wines that use plastic corks, simply because it’s such a dumb idea!

On the other side of the coin, cork haters, get a life. Cork taint problems are dropping. It’s a fact that almost any retailer,  or wine critic, can tell you. In the 80’s and 90’s, cork taint was a bigger epidemic; but today, while still an issue, it is getting better. And although we absolutely hate cork taint, we do like cork. And if a big company like Amorim can virtually eliminate taint, then it’s only a matter of time before that technology trickles down to smaller producers. That said, there will always be bad bottles. Wine is a produce item. Buy a dozen apples, and a few will have some soft spots. Buy a dozen wines, and you will inevitably have variation.

Personally, I like the idea that wine has variation. But if retailers were smart, allowing you to return or exchange a wine, the problem wouldn’t be such a big deal. Bad bottle? Stick the cork back in and return it. Can’t do that with an apple, now can you? That said, I have been known to cry out in pain and anguish after opening a tainted bottle from my cellar, which has been aging for over 20 years. In this situation, you will see me curse and cry out to the Cork Gods. But for long term aging, I have yet to see a more effective alternative to cork. If you have the research for an alternative, put it in my comments section. We are all ears!  (Flickr photo by emdot)

Don’t take our rant as a free pass for the cork industry! You all need to get your act together, working as a team to make sure that every producer has access to similar technologies and science. Cork tainted bottles are never blamed on the cork producer, but rather on cork as a whole. So if there is even one producer producing bad corks, you all get the raw end of the deal. Your competitive advantage of having the most “taint free corks” means shit when a competitor releases a batch of tainted ones. You lose, they lose, and your new fancy TCA eliminator machine is worthless.

Before I go, I want to list a few things that I believe to be fact and that are worthy of consideration:

There is my rant. Comments are open, so tell me that I’m wrong! Remember, there are six more months until our next rant. Let’s see where we’re at then! 🙂


Ryan Opaz

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