What would you say if we told you that we believed wine should be uncomplicated and easy to understand? Yes, we agree: that’s easier said than done. Yet we do believe that some of wine’s most existential questions can be answered simply. In fact, when it comes to the caps/corks and bottles/boxes debate, there’s an easy answer: It’s all good if it tastes good.
That’s why we’re breaking down the wine vessel debate for you into easily digestible answers. What’s better? Boxed or bottled wine? Corked or screw-top wine?
While we might not be able to definitively answer the world’s biggest existential questions, such as, “What does it all mean?” (but let’s be honest: the answer is 42), we can do you a solid on this one.
The Skinny on Corked Wine
We’ve been buying wine sealed with a cork for centuries. Our ancestors would never have let us serve inferior wine for generations, would they?
The answer is a little complicated.
One of the most appealing reasons to use a cork to seal your wine bottle has to do with air. Corks don’t create a completely airtight seal because the cork itself isn’t airtight. As you may very well know, corks have tiny holes that allow air to get into the wine after it has been sealed; this is great news for some wines! And not so great news for other wines.
Some wines love a little air — sometimes not so much.
Corks offer winemakers plenty of benefits: they’re inexpensive and they’re basically made for sealing wine in a bottle. One of our favorite perks? That satisfying ‘pop’ emitted from a bottle of prosecco or Champagne. Matthew Goode said it best in Hulu’s “Wine Show” when described that sound as, “A giggle in a glass.”
Yet, there are also a few downsides to corked wine that our ancestors might not have considered.
For one thing, corks aren’t infallible. How many times have you opened a bottle of merlot to find bits of cork floating in your vino? While unlikely, it’s also possible for a bit of bad cork to make its way into your evening beverage. Boo.
Screw-Cap Wine — Not Just for the Cheap Stuff
Screw caps have been around since the 1950s. Many of these metal caps first started popping up on bottles of cheaper wines — which is probably how they got their bad rap.
Yet, we see screw-top caps on wines more and more. We’ve even seen them on some fancier wines — such as Chateau Ste. Michelle’s lighter whites and reds. Even Dusted Valley, another Washington State Winery, has been selling wines that range from $35 to $50 sealed by screw tops.
The History of Bottled Wine
There are plenty of benefits to bottling wine in — well, bottles. Technically, wine bottles go back thousands of years. Although, originally, they were made of clay instead of glass. Yet the ancient clay bottles had something in common with the glass ones we use today: thin necks that prevented the wine’s exposure to oxygen.
Glass bottles simply made sense for many years. They were sturdy — but not too heavy. They could be stored on the side or upright. They also prevented air from tarnishing the wine.
The only downside? What if you want to just drink one glass of wine without exposing the rest of the wine to air?
Oh, the horrors of the Dark Ages.
The Benefits of Boxed Wine
Today, we can enjoy all the benefits of bottled wine — without the bottle.
Boxed wine allows us to store wine, drink some of it and put the rest back in the cupboard or fridge for later.
Basically, any wine you make today can conceivably be stored in a box or a bottle. Though you probably won’t find a Chateau Margaux 1787 in a box anytime soon. Or, ever.
The Verdict: When to Buy Corked, Screw-Capped, Bottles and Boxes
What the heck does this all mean? Common guys, we know you’re not sommeliers! Of course, we’re going to break it down for you.
Capped Vs. Corked
Young wines tend to fare better in capped bottles because the caps prevent the air from getting into the wine. If you’re looking for a sauvignon blanc or a pinot grigio, capped wine is always a good choice. Yet, if you love drinking more complex wines, such as chardonnay, merlot and cabernet (that taste better aerated), you might want to opt for a corked bottle instead.
Boxed Vs. Bottled
Ultimately, when it comes to a box or bottle, there’s no major difference. Many bottled wines don’t come in boxes, so you simply won’t have the choice. If your favorite wine comes in both boxed and bottled form, go ahead and buy the box, you crazy wino.