Q: Can I give a screw-cap wine as a gift?
A: The quick answer is yes. A wine sealed with a screw cap is more likely to taste better than a bottle with a cork closure, although some consumers still dislike them.
In the late 20th century, the quality of corks used to seal wine deteriorated. Wine producers found an unacceptably high percentage of their lovely product tasted musty, mouldy or dirty. Their wines were corked, a fault usually caused by TCA (Trichloroanisole), formed during the manufacture of corks. Levels of cork taint vary, and some of us are more sensitive than others to TCA. Even if their wine wasn’t corked, producers (and consumers) found that the same wine tasted different as you moved from bottle to bottle.
As a quality control exercise, I was once asked by an importer to taste 30 bottles of the same wine one after the other. Twenty bottles were fresh and vibrant, the remaining samples lacked fruit, or tasted a bit flat or dead.
Wineries in Australia and New Zealand believed they were receiving inferior quality corks compared to their European counterparts and so vowed to switch to alternative closures. Some Australian producers had trialled screw caps in the 1970s, but had been forced to revert to cork due to consumer resistance. In time they succeeded in convincing the public that screw caps were acceptable. Nowadays, if you go into a wine shop in either country you will be hard pushed to find a wine with a cork in it, including many of the finest wines of all.
As well as screw caps, some producers use Vinolok (lined glass stoppers) or plastic corks. These days, the quality of cork has improved immeasurably, so you are far less likely to encounter faulty wines.
So, while some consumers are still resistant to screw-cap wines, the recipient of your gift should have no reason to turn up his or her nose — providing you bought a nice bottle of wine in the first place.