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More than half the wines on the South wine list are screw capped wines. We love them for a few reasons.
- It makes it much quicker for waiters to get drinks out to people, we hate people waiting (I hate waiting for drinks!)
- Wines are NEVER corked (because they have no cork of course). You still need to make sure they weren’t spoiled by heat or some other issue but that is highly unusual.
- Its easier to seal them during service to retain freshness (for wines we serve by the glass)
On Tuesday night we had a big group of doctors in ordering one of our expensive Cabernets and 3 out of the 4 bottles were corked.
In this situation, we send it back to the distributor and they are usually good about replacing it but unfortunately, the guest is disappointed (particularly after their first bottle was spectacular) and we don’t feel comfortable continuing to open more bottles so we need to change wines.
We can always recommend an alternative of course but still we’d rather the wines weren’t bloody corked! This is not the fault of the winery, but the cork itself which is infected with bacteria. Wineries can be careful about choosing high grade cork but there are no guarantees that the more you pay, the safer you are.
The Portuguese cork producers say the incidence has decreased and that they are solving the problem (see this article) but the jury is still out there. Some industry pundits say that up to 10% of wines are tainted by cork to varying degrees and the Australian Wine Research Institute leads the world in the research into screw caps, cork and cork taint and synthetic corks. My humble experience in the restaurant is about 5-7%.
New Zealand led the way using screw caps commericially back in the 90’s and Australia followed. For white wines meant to be drunk young, there seems is no downside to screw caps, they are fresher and seal better but the argument continues for ageable reds.
Time will tell on that. Now, most of the reds and whites in New Zealand are screw-capped, in Australia almost all of the age-worthy reds of note are still sealed with cork including the best wines like Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace.
Most of the winemakers you talk to however would prefer to use screw caps but their marketing people are against it fearing the backlash from luxury wine drinkers in the US.
Interestingly, we have had very few negative comments on the number of wines in screw caps at South from our guests.
I think I had one email about it where I customer said if she was paying $40 for a bottle of wine, she thinks that screw caps are tacky but South customers seem to be absolutely fine with it, the tide has turned with the discerning US wine consumer I am pleased to say. Or perhaps it is just the very smart people that come to South 🙂