There's something satisfying about the pop of a cork and the glug-glug-glug of wine cascading into a glass, especially compared to the abrasive click of a screw top. But when funds for wine are low (OK, rock bottom), there's no competition between a £5 screw top Shiraz and the fancy Rioja with the gold wire cage and embossed cork—even if it doesn't feel anywhere near as fancy to drink.
This week, a group of scientists claimed to have confirmed this widely held preference for corked wine. According to Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, and his team at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, wine tastes better if it comes from a bottle with a cork, rather than a screw cap. But not necessarily because the vino is higher quality.
The study's findings, which were released yesterday, showed that when people unknowingly tasted the same wines, they judged bottles sealed with a cork 15 percent better in quality than screw caps. Researchers asked 140 participants to sample two Argentinian Malbecs after listening to the sound of a cork being popped and a screw cap being opened. Participants were then asked to resample (it's a hard life) the wines after opening the bottles themselves. Unbeknownst to them, the wines were the same but sealed differently on the second tasting.
After rating the wines' ambience, sound, aroma, and sight, 113 participants said that they preferred corked bottles, compared to 13 who chose screw caps as their favourite. Spence said that the findings demonstrate how sight, sound, and touch impact taste. He explained: "The sound and sight of a cork being popped sets our expectations before the wine has even touched our lips, and these expectations then anchor our subsequent tasting experience. These results emphasise the importance of closures for wine and the clear association between cork and quality in our subconscious."
But according to wine expert and co-founder of London bar Noble Rot, Mark Andrew, we shouldn't be so dismissive of the humble screw cap. He told MUNCHIES that it all depends on what's inside the bottle.
Andrew said: "The main difference between wines that are sealed with cork or screw cap is the impact it has on how the wine 'develops' in the bottle. For wines that are intended to undergo a period of ageing to reach their full potential—premium Bordeaux or Barolo, for example—corks are preferable due to the slow admission of oxygen into the wine over time. Conversely, wines that are intended to be drunk while they are young (which is about 99 percent of wine produced) tend to be fresher, fruitier, and more vibrant when they are bottled under screw cap."
"Therefore, the question of whether a wine bottled under cork is 'better' than a wine bottled under screw cap is ridiculous, because the closure itself doesn't dictate the quality of the original juice, only what happens to it as it undergoes prolonged ageing."
Whack that line out next time you're trying to impress a date with a screw cap bargain bottle.