Over the course of the last few decades, skrewcaps have been embraced by many wine producers. While they may not have the romantic appeal of a traditional cork… The reasoning for this is sound. Natural cork is expensive, and in short supply. A faulty cork can also RUIN a great bottle.
Skrew caps offer freedom from cork taint – a pesky bacterial growth found in natural cork that can reak havoc on your wine. Cork taint is the reason why the Somm or server pours the host a small sample of wine to try first before serving the rest of the table when you order a bottle of wine. This gesture is simply to make sure the wine has not been spoiled.
NOTE: This is not your chance to reject a wine based on personal preference, or begin writing your tasting notes. Why does the server leave the cork on the table for you? Hint: it is not because it is a souvenir. It is a gift for you to inspect via a sniff for off odours – like the smell of rotting cardboard, or wet dog.
Because this bacterial pest can ruin epic bottles, quality-conscious producers, initially in Australia and New Zealand, began using skrewcap closures.
Sadly early skrewcaps (and current cheap skrewcaps) were not necessarily better than corks. A natural cork closure allows wine to breathe, with slow oxygen maturation. It is why bottles should be laid on their side in order to keep the cork from drying out, and allow slow, prolonged oxygen permiation into the wine via the porous cork.
So what does this mean for our friend the skrewcap? Well, in cheap wines that are made to be consumed within a year… There is no need to lay them on their side. Even in a higher end maturation worthy wine, a single year on it’s side will make little difference to maturation.
However, in higher end wines, manufacturers have tried to mimic the porous nature of a cork closure. Specially engineered caps, like certain versions of the Stelvin closure, allow controlled oxygen maturation via a permiable seal in the wine. These are cellar worthy bottles, best stored on their side to reap the benefits for years to come.
However, at the end of the day, when in doubt… If you don’t plan on drinking it soon… No matter what closure you have… lay it on it’s side. You will never go wrong.