TWO years ago, the announcement that a well-known winery, or a little-known winery for that matter, was switching to screw caps for its bottles was news. Winemakers were divided on the subject. “Right on,” said the younger vintners. “Waste of time,” said older and presumably wiser types. Or “Money down the drain.” Or, more often, “The consumer will never accept it.”
No longer. Acceptance of screw-on tops for wine bottles – by both winemakers and consumers – has been astonishing. From Burgundy to Beaujolais, from Spain to South Africa, winemakers are switching from corks. No one seems to have an accurate count of how many wineries are using aluminum tops, but people in the industry agree that the number is in the hundreds.
Corked wine ? wine that has been spoiled because of a bad cork ? is a serious problem in the wine business. It affects even the fine old chateaus. Many years ago, I spent a weekend at Château Lafite-Rothschild, tasting very old wines from its cellar. Later, the staff acknowledged that it had had to open many more of the priceless bottles than we tasted, mostly because of faulty corks.