Beyond the Stigma of Screw Caps

I must admit, I am a little biased when it comes to screw caps on wine. The thought of them brings back unpleasant taste memories from college. However, now that screw caps are gaining popularity among skilled winemakers in places like Australia, New Zealand and here in the United States, I’m giving screw caps a second chance.

There are benefits to screw caps. They’re cheaper than cork and you don’t have to worry about them tainting the wine. On the other side they’re not as good for aging. And there is something to be said about the tradition of using cork to seal wine bottles.

I really enjoy the ritual of opening a bottle of wine – cutting the foil, twisting in the corkscrew, anticipating that first sip. The sound of metal cracking when you twist open a screw cap is nowhere near as satisfying as the pop when the cork comes out.

Last night one of my favorite local wine bars, Wine 69, hosted a tasting that featured screw cap wines from Finnegan’s Lake in California and Stringtown Wines in Oregon. The first was a 2006 Chardonnay from Finnegan’s Lake. It was light and fruity, good for drinking on a hot summer afternoon. It was aged in stainless steel barrels instead of oak; I did miss that oak taste that I like in other Chardonnays. Next came a 2007 Pinot Grigio from Stringtown Wines. If you’re into light wines with the taste of tropical fruit you might like it. It was too fruity and a bit watery for my taste. The 2006 Stringtown Pinot Noir was nice. It did have a lot of strawberry and other light fruit flavors but it wasn’t too overwhelming. The next wine was an interesting mix of six grapes. The 2006 Stringtown Cotes du Rogue had Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and Grenache. It had a fairly big taste, but seemed to be lacking direction. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Finnegan’s Lake was my favorite. It was well balanced and smooth, with very soft tannins. Price-wise it was the cheapest. Both Finnegan’s Lake wines were $22, the others ranged from $24.50 to $39.50.

Though I wasn’t too big on any of these wines, it wasn’t because they were sealed with screw caps. I may not always gravitate toward screw cap wines at the store, but in the future I’ll definitely give them another look.

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