What happens as red wine ages in the bottle? The ageing of red wine in bottle can be affected by many factors including the type of seal used. At Liebichwein we have chosen to use both screwcap and cork for our reds and often do comparative tastings with fascinating outcomes.
Here are a few ways in which cork and screwcaps differ for wine:
- Oxygen exposure – The key difference between screwcaps and corks is the amount of oxygen exposure that the wine receives during ageing. Cork seals allow a little bit of oxygen into the bottle over time, while screwcaps are a much more airtight seal. So wines under cork with slightly more oxygen ingress will tend to age faster. Tannins become softer, acidity mellows, and flavour complexity develops faster for reds under cork.
- Consistency – It’s true that screwcaps are so popular now as they are more consistent than cork, which can vary in quality and consistency. Wines with screwcap are less likely to be affected by issues such as cork taint or oxidation, which can affect the wine’s flavour and aroma.
- Ageability – The long-term ageability of wine with screwcap vs cork seals is still widely debated among wine experts. While some believe that screwcap-sealed wines may not age as well as cork-sealed wines, others argue that screwcaps can provide a more consistent ageing environment, which can lead to more predictable aging patterns.
- Flavour preservation – Screwcap seals are perfect for preserving fresh fruit flavours of young red wines and wines to be consumed in their youth. Research has shown that cork seals may allow more rapid development of tertiary aromas and flavours such as dried/cooked fruits, leather and earthy notes.
In a nutshell, the development of bottled red wine will depend on a range of factors, including the wine style, grape variety, storage conditions, cellaring time, and personal preference. While screwcap seals are commonplace in recent years due to their consistency and effectiveness at preserving fruit flavours, many wine enthusiasts (and winemakers like Ron Liebich) still prefer the traditional cork seal for its perceived ability to enhance ageing potential and develop complex flavour profiles.
From time to time, we offer museum tastings where we can compare the same vintage sealed with cork and screwcap. Get in touch if you’d like to try this for yourself and we’ll dig out some bottles from the Liebichwein cellar.