Buzz: What kind of nutcases drop a hundred bucks and don't even get to keep the cork? I paint 'em red and green and hang 'em from my Christmas tree. Cheaper than ornaments!
Marnie: Those buyers are prudent shoppers. Corks do look classier and most top red wines still use them. Most fine-wine lovers still shy away from screwcaps, even though they've been proved to better protect wine, even long term.
But wine lovers who want to be sure they're getting pristine juice that can age gracefully without disappointing them later are coming to trust screwcaps more than corks.
Buzz: Why wouldn't you trust a cork? They've been used as bottle-stoppers for hundreds of years.
Marnie: True, they worked better than any other option for centuries, but corks cause flavor problems in about 5 percent of the bottles they seal. Since they're made of tree bark, corks can never be sterilized fully, and the chemicals used can cause problems too. Most "cork taint" is so faint only a winemaker would notice, but sometimes the flaw is so bad, the wine literally stinks, with a mildewed smell like a flooded basement.
Buzz: Whoa. That sounds disgusting. If screwtops stop that, why doesn't everyone use them?
Marnie: Fear of change, really. Vintners are very respectful of time-honored traditions and have been justifiably cautious embracing the radical changes in packaging of the last century.
Since great wines can age for decades, decades of tests and trials were needed. But, now that the results are in on corks, the biggest obstacle is customer perception - wine drinkers simply assume that good wines still have corks, period.
Buzz: So the snobs don't want to let go of their corkscrews, huh? Heck, I can open a screwtop with my teeth.
Marnie Old is a local sommelier and wine author. Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News Assistant Managing Editor Gar Joseph.