Corks vs. Screw Caps, Local Winemakers Open to New Closures

May 27, 2008

When it comes to protecting their precious vintage some local wineries are making the switch from corks to screw caps. What it lacks in drama, it makes up in efficiency.

 

According to Lee Lutes, winemaker for Black Star Farms, the Stelvin closure, otherwise known as the screw cap, does a better job of protecting the wine from spoiling than does a traditional cork. When they opened their new winery on Old Mission, Black Star Farms added the ability to bottle with screw caps. The first of their wines to utilize this closure is their ’07 Arcturos Late Harvest Riesling, which is now available in the tasting rooms.

 

Another winery utilizing the screw cap option is the newcomer Forty-Five North. Winemaker Shawn Walters is enthusiastic about the use of metal closures on their wines. In fact 90 percent of their wines are under screw caps, including their sparkling rose, cider, peach and cherry. 

 

But there are two sides to this story. Bryan Ulbrich of Left Foot Charley has bottled only one wine, the 2007 Pinot Blanc, with this closure. "Using this closure requires some subtle changes in winemaking. I am doing this as an experiment. Cork is a very sound closure and it is the most environmentally friendly choice," said Ulbrich.

 

Peninsula Cellars is not currently set-up to handle screw top closures. Owner John Kroupa explained it may be several years before they make the investment in the necessary equipment to bottle in this way. And there’s also the factor of consumer acceptance to consider. When asked his opinion on the use of the closure he replied, " I am for their use. However, mentally there is something much more romantic about popping a cork on a nice bottle of wine, rather than twisting the cap off."

 

It sounds like the jury is still out on this one. As the wine industry grows in Northern Michigan I expect we’ll continue to see the technology follow. I’m a bit more of a traditionalist. I love to see the graphics and logos that wineries tattoo on their corks. It’s a fun and inexpensive souvenir of a memorable wine event or a special dinner. And frankly, I won’t be keeping a bowl of plastic caps on my coffee table. So my vote is to keep the cork! But decide for yourself. And in the end, it’s not about the closure, it’s what’s inside that counts.

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