Natural corks cause noticeable flavor problems in 2% to 5% of the bottles they seal. In most instances, the resulting “cork taint” is so faint only an expert would notice, but sometimes the flaw is so significant that the wine literally stinks — laced with the mildewed smell of a recently flooded basement. Decades of research shows that screw caps do a much better job than wooden corks, and are just as good for red wines as they are for whites. And while wine drinkers have largely accepted screw-cap closures on certain styles, such as affordable rosés and unoaked white wines, they remain illogically skeptical about their suitability for reds.
This problem is largely psychological and sadly self-perpetuating. As long as shoppers continue to show a preference for cork-sealed bottles just because they look classier or feel more authentic, vintners will continue using them — even if screw caps are indisputably better for making sure wine tastes its best.
Thankfully, some winemaking regions are tackling this problem head-on, most notably New Zealand and Australia. Since the vast majority of their wines, red and white, are offered with screw caps, they are helping wine drinkers around the world get used to the idea of ditching the corkscrew and opening a nice bottle of red with their fingers.
This excellent example is a delightful wine to serve with fall foods. A lightweight pinot noir packed with vibrant red fruit flavors of pomegranate and raspberry, it also offers savory, aromatic accents of herbs and wild mushrooms. Best of all, you won’t have to wonder if its earthy scent comes from the wine or from a bad cork.
Matua Pinot Noir — Marlborough, New Zealand (12.5% ABV)
On sale for $13.99 through Dec. 1 (regularly $15.99); PLCB Item #8650