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Screw-cap wines have perhaps a deserved but outdated reputation as cheap, insignificant and low quality wines. This reputation stems from the first use of screw caps on wines in the 1950s. Brands associated with bottle caps instead of corks were usually low price and tended not to be wines you’d want to write home about.
However, as wine has been understood on a more scientific level, screw-cap wines may now have a very different reputation. Corks don’t always protect wines as well as they should, and plastic “imitation corks” may not be perfect at the job for storing wines either. This has led to a number of high quality screw-cap wines, because the newer caps may actually mean better storage in the bottle.
Among the first large counties to adopt screw caps for bottling quality wines are Australia and New Zealand. America has followed suit, though you’ll still find a number of wines topped with a cork. Questions remained as to whether any of the old wineries in France would take on this trend, and this has been answered in the affirmative with a few bottles of French Chablis now topped with a screw cap.
Though screw-cap wines may seem a shock to wine traditionalists, there really are studies suggesting that these wines may hold up over time better and tend to store and age at a more predictable rate than do wines with artificial or natural cork toppings. For wine collectors, this consideration may be paramount because storing a wine only to find it has gone bad or lost flavor is not particularly desirable.
When you research companies making screw-cap wines at present, you’ll find that most of the wines with screw caps are still being made in Australia or New Zealand. This should be no deterrent to purchase, as these countries are increasingly making very high quality wines. Yet you’ll also note some screw-cap wines coming from places like the California wine country, parts of Spain, France and Italy. The trend is definitely catching on.
Typically, prices on screw-cap wines are reasonable, with an average price range of about $10-25 US Dollars (USD). You can expect wines of these prices to be reasonably good, perhaps not the $50-100 USD quality, but still imminently drinkable. The screw-cap wine of today should not be judged by the old standards existing in the 20th century. In fact these wines with screw on caps may represent higher standards and predict how most wine will be bottled by the end of the 21st century.
People who are getting into the wine or mead making hobby should probably avoid screw caps until they know what they are doing. Why? It is common for people getting into the wine or mead making hobbies to not kill fermentation completely before they bottle their alcohol.
When active yeast is in a wine bottle, it will produce carbon dioxide and that means carbonation. That pressure has to go somewhere. A cork will pop out of a bottle when carbonation levels get too high. A screw cap will not pop out so easily, meaning too much carbonation could result in a bottle exploding. It's better to have a mess instead of both a mess and shards of glass everywhere.
When it comes to screw cap wines, the best way to judge them is by price alone. In some parts of the world, that's been the yardstick for years because people have known for some time about the problems with using artificial or natural corks.
In other words, that bottle of cheap wine with a screw cap is far removed from a high quality wine that happens to use such a cap instead of a cork.
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