Food & Drink

February 29, 2012

Discovering Wine with Emilio Guerra

Emilio Guerra is the Regional Manager for Dreyfus Ashby & Co., purveyors of fine wines. I have known and worked with Emilio for four years; we first met when he was one of the instructors in the Sommelier certification program I was enrolled in. Recently Emilio was a guest speaker in my Food & Wine Pairing class at Florida International University, he took the students on a tour of rosés from around the world, and it was highly amusing to say the least.

I like Emilio’s style and his storytelling ability so I asked him to be a guest contributor to South Florida Food and Wine, he agreed and now twice a month, readers will  be “Discovering Wine with Emilio Guerra” 

Today we begin our first guest post with Emilio as he talks about the heated wine topic of cork vs. screw cap.

At a recent wine tasting, as I was pouring one of my wines a person commented with disdain, “Oh! that wine now comes with a screw cap?!” I responded with a smile, “Screw caps are Good! They are our Friend!” and here are some of the reasons why.

Let me start out by saying that 98% of wine made today is meant to be drunk within the first three years of the vintage. Except for the great growths of Bordeaux, the Grand Crus of Burgundy, the Barolos of Piedmont and some exceptional wines from California, Spain and Italy, most wines will give you their best quality and flavor within the first three years of their life – Period.

In addition, the cork has been the closure of choice for centuries because it was easy to obtain and work with and it also lends a sense of aristocracy and importance to the wine. However, natural corks only come from one place, the bark of cork oak trees. This type of oak produces a thick bark harvested every 10-12 years and 50% of the world’s cork oak trees are found in Portugal. Now consider Global Warming and the increased demand for this product and you can see why there is not enough cork to go around.

Finally, natural cork is not a perfect closure and sometimes when the cork is defective or shrinks in the bottle it allows air to get inside and taints/spoils the wine. This is known as “cork taint” and unfortunately it is more common than people think, occurring 6-8% of the time. For a producer that does not make an expensive sought after product, loosing 6-8% of his wine is not acceptable. This is the main reason why the screw cap was born.

Yalumba Winery in Australia was one of the first places where screw caps went into commercial in 1976. Later is was adopted by most of the producers in New Zealand which really brought the stelvin cap, as it is now known, to the world’s attention. Since then, producers around the world have adopted this type of closure which helps the wine, the bottom line and the environment.

So next time you see a wine with a stelvin cap remember the reasons why it’s there and rest assured that the wine inside will be fresh and perfect to drink.

Here are some of my favorite wines that come with a Screw cap:



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  1. Dear Emilio,

    Thank you for your response, and my apologies if the tone of my original note was too sharp.

    You are correct that there is a limited amount of cork, just as there is a limited amount of any natural resrouce, including the aluminum used to make screw-caps. But for all practical purposes, there is plenty of cork to go around when it comes to sealing wine. And unlike aluminum, cork is a renewable resource that benefits the environment.

    Yes, screwcaps are recyclable, but only in theory. Most of them end up in landfills because they are too small for recycling plants to handle.

    There are plenty of wine makers who would disagree with you about the difference in taste between a wine sealed with a screw-cap vs. a cork, but then again some of them would say they prefer the fruity flavor imparted by a screw-caps (and here I’m referring to young white wines.)

    And, yes, I agree that screwcaps are here to stay. However, despite all the marketing behind screw-caps, wine drinkers still overwhelmingly prefer natural cork.

    Look me up if you come to San Francisco and I’d be happy to buy you a glass of wine — regardless of what it’s sealed with!

    Best of luck to you,

  2. Emilio Guerra

    Dear Lance Ignon, thank you for responding to my article. I always appreciate and welcome other points of view.

    You begin by stating that almost everything in my article is incorrect and you support it with facts related to the use of corks. However, the article was not about corks or anti-cork but rather pro-screw caps.

    In it, there were three important points I was trying to make which you failed to grasp.

    One; the majority of wines made today are not meant to be laid-down for future consumption and therefore benefit from the use of a Stelvin closure.

    Two; those who see a screw cap on a bottle and think the wine will taste differently are misinformed and should realize that screw caps are here to stay.

    Third; there is a limited amount of cork available and it is impossible to assume that 100% of every single bottle of wine made today can be sealed with natural cork.

    Yes, cork is a renewable natural resource and I stand behind you on its continued use but as you well know both glass and aluminum can be recycled which is good for the environment.

  3. Almost everything in this article about cork is incorrect.

    It suggests that somehow using cork is bad for global warming and that there isn’t enough to go around. The opposite is true. There is plenty of cork and using it encourages the strewarship of cork oak forests that trap carbon, thereby reducing greenhouse gases. The trees are neither harmed nor cut down for their bark. Using screw-caps, however, encourages the mining of aluminum. Cork’s carbon footprint is much lower than the one for screw-caps.

    The minute amount of air that cork allows into the bottle comes from the cork itself, not the outside environment, and it’s what allows a red wine to age properly. So-called cork taint, or TCA, does not result from the intrusion of air and can come from sources other than cork.

    For factual information about cork, go to

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