Advice: Sir Lunchalot


The second in a series of our advice column, Berry Bros. & Rudd in-house expert Sir Lunchalot answers all your wine-related questions… This month, the conundrum of which is better – cork or screwcap?

Dear Sir,

When faced with the decision of purchasing wine in screw top or in cork, there are many conflicting pieces of advice. Would you do as many of the Australians seem to suggest and go for a bottle to gently unscrew, or is unplugging the cork the more old-fashioned way still to be generally advised? How long should a screw top bottle last?


Barry O. Lowe

“Well… gosh… this is a question that will take more than one good lunch to unravel. For longer than anyone cares to remember… before Jancis, before Parker, before even time itself began, wine professionals and amateurs alike have debated the virtues of closures galore. Of course, the favourite was always cork, but there is only so much to go around. As wine production across our great globe increased it was simply impossible to keep the going firm. Our Portuguese friends no doubt favoured “existing relationships” over our colonial cousins so many looked for other solutions. The screwcap is modern, quite efficient but by no means perfect. It certainly does not allow the wine to “age” as well, but then not all wines are built to age. You certainly wouldn’t want Aunt Daisy popping in (uninvited, I might add) with a two-year-old bottle of Pinot Grigio under cork. At least under screw cap with minimal evolution you can chill it down to taste of nothing and still be on her Christmas-card list.

For prestige wines you may soon find even the most modern producers turning back to natural closures. Horror stories of bashed caps, heat damage, ill treatment when shipping – the wine can be dead inside under its shiny perfect screw-capped exterior. This is really putting pressure on cork producers to up the quality. We should pay more for cork! Not for supermarket bottom shelf range, but if you’re spending £50-plus on a bottle of wine, wouldn’t you at least want five percent of that price to be spent on the only thing that comes between your wine being perfect, and complete and utter misery?

These are, of course, not the only options. Every man and his dog is reinventing the wheel: Vinolok, Diam, Nomacorc, etc, etc but from my comfortable dining chair the answer is simple. If the consumption is imminent then it makes little difference either way. If wine needs to stay fresh, but doesn’t cost the earth, then let’s go modern. For age-worthy wine, regardless of where it’s from, there is no substitute for good cork. That’s the important term… “GOOD CORK”. That doesn’t mean “untainted cork” (all closures need margin for error), but the best cork that is available – it’s the responsibility of the winemaker to work out exactly how to achieve that, and in turn pressure the supplier. Now hand me that Durand corkscrew, I have company for lunch… and we won’t be needing the Coravin!”

Three of our favourite wines under screwcap
2016 Berry Bros. & Rudd Old-Blocks Chenin Blanc by Tierhoek
2016 Berry Bros. & Rudd Australian Shiraz by Elderton
2016 Berry Bros. & Rudd White Burgundy by Collovray & Terrier

Got a question for Sir Lunchalot? He would be delighted to help – just post it in the Comment section below…