Corks Versus Screw Caps: Which Is Better?

As the cork industry falters, winos debate which cap works best

Should the test of a good wine be based on whether it uses a natural cork, synthetic cork, or screw cap? The debate wages on, but scientists are committed to keeping natural corks around for a long time.

Reuters reports on Spain's faltering natural cork industry, and the scientists trying to rescue it. Natural cork production plunged from 2008 to 2010, during the time when metal screw caps and synthetic corks became popular. But scientists from Spain, where natural cork production has been a family business for generations, have attempted to overcome one major drawback in the cork debate: "cork taint." Cork taint is the "musty odor caused by the chemical trichloroanisole (TCA)," Reuters says. To get rid of the problem, producers are making higher quality corks — a win for everyone. 

The truth is, though, that no one can quite decide what kind of corks are best. Synthetic cork producers still say that natural corks aren't as airtight, and contain more chemicals than synthetic ones. But last year, the Sommelier Society of America put out its official opinion and stated its preference for natural corks versus synthetic. And screw caps, perhaps the most frowned-upon wine closure, don't contain common fungi found in corks, and the risk of cork taint.