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The History Of Screwtop Wine's Rise To Popularity Begins In Australia

screwtop wine bottles
screwtop wine bottles - Pinkasevich/Shutterstock

In an industry that prides itself on tradition, screwtop wine bottles can be a little polarizing. There are more than a few of us who refuse to buy any wine that isn't corked and many more who secretly (or not so secretly) assume the wine is lower quality because of the package it comes in — and these aren't new opinions. When screwtop wine caps were invented in 1959, they met with similar resistance as today — only much worse.

Contrary to what you might assume, screw caps weren't a sleazy way for wineries to cut corners and save a penny. As trade routes became increasingly global, transportation of such a delicate product as wine became an increasingly difficult problem. Nowhere exemplifies the difficulties of this dilemma more than the land down under.

Australian winemakers and distributors were getting hit with a considerable amount of wine spoilage on the voyage out to the island nation due to cork taint, which is caused by a specific type of bacteria that feeds on cork. When it finds its way onto wine corks, it will ruin the bottle completely. Cork taint is one of the reasons wine bars will ask if you want to smell the cork after they open the bottle for you. Frustrated with the amount of cork taint they were losing wine to, Australian winery Yalumba reached out to the French bottle manufacturer Le Bouchon Mecanique to ask for a corkless wine bottle, and in 1959, the manufacturer delivered the screw top.

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We're Screwed

opening screw cap wine
opening screw cap wine - Photosiber/Shutterstock

Screw tops were already being used for other foods and drinks before then, but they weren't fit for wine until Le Bouchon Mecanique adapted it. Customer resistance was high and the technology floundered for several decades. The screw top started gaining some ground in the 80s and 90s but it wasn't until the early 2000s that screw tops came into their full force.

Once again, Australia led the charge on the innovation. Because consumers were correlating screw caps with low-quality wine, several Australian winemakers collectively decided to bottle their best wines with screw caps. It was a risky move but it paid off in the end. By giving everyone an example to point to of a high-quality screwtop wine, the ice had been broken. It's Australians' penchant for breaking with tradition that led them to invent boxed wine as well.

Over the past 20 years, wine screw caps have been fine-tuned. One of the biggest complaints from traditionalists was that screw caps didn't allow any air into the bottle, which meant the wine inside wouldn't benefit from aging in the cellar. Contemporary screw caps are now structured to allow a controlled amount of interplay between the wine and the air to remedy this. While there are many mistakes to avoid when shopping for wine, buying screwtop wine isn't one of them. There's something to be said for the simple pleasure of a cork popping out of the bottle, but cork no longer holds a monopoly.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.