Wine under cork perceived as 15% better than screwcap

27th September, 2017 by Lucy Shaw

Wines bottled under cork are perceived to be 15% better quality than those closed with a screwcap according to the results of a recent scientific experiment.

Led by professor Charles Spence of Oxford University’s crossmodal research lab, the experiment asked 140 participants to rate identical wines bottled under cork and screwcap.

Firstly, the participants were asked to taste and rate a wine after being played the sound of a cork popping, then after having heard a screwcap being opened.

They were then asked to open both bottles with a corkscrew and their hands and rate the wines again. During the experiment participants were unaware that they were being served identical wines.

Overall, participants rated the same wine as 15% better quality when served under a cork in comparison to screwcap. The wine under a cork was also rated as 20% more appropriate for a celebration and 16% more inciting of a celebratory mood.

“Our senses are intrinsically linked – what we hear, see and feel has a huge effect on what we taste.

“The sound and sight of a cork being popped sets our expectations before the wine has even touched our lips, and these expectations then anchor our subsequent tasting experience,” Spence said.

“These results emphasise the importance of closures for wine and the clear association between cork and quality in our subconscious,” he added.

Having been blighted by problems with TCA in the past, advancements in technology has brought the number of wines bottled under cork affected by TCA down significantly.

According to Amorim, based on instances of cork taint found during the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles tasting competition, in 2012 just 0.8% of the 6,289 wines tasted in the competition were affected by TCA, and by 2015 the figure had shrunk to 0.2%.

Edit: Information relating to the original experiment can be found in a drinks business article published in July. It can be viewed here. 

9 Responses to “Wine under cork perceived as 15% better than screwcap”

  1. Mario Goldbrich says:

    The study very much depends on the wine culture. In Central Europa we have been used to cork closures for many years and after some hesitancy at first, wine in screwcap bottles is well accepted. Besides TCA screwcaps also are very convenient for easy opening, closing a half empty bottle…

  2. Nick Oakley says:

    As suppliers to supermarkets, if we switch from cork to screwcap, sales increase by 15% more or less. Same wine. Nothing else changes, but market acceptiblity increases..

  3. Charles Crawfurd says:

    I can accept that top end fine reds and some whites meant for ageing benefit from a cork (if not faulty) but aside from those, evidence and personal experience seems to show clearly that screwcap gives a better or as good result. Consumer preferences for screwcap, to say nothing of the benefits for an on trade establishment with many bottles to open and a lot of female staff is that screwcap is the closure of preference. Of course Oxford common rooms who sup somewhat classier wines to us mere mortals will doubtless demur from that viewpoint!

    • Regina M Lutz says:

      re: Charles Crawford: What, you think ‘female staff’ are challenged to open ‘many bottles’ with corks, but have no problem opening screwcaps?? Hahahahahaha!

      Very old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy comment, I’d say!

      “….to say nothing of the benefits for an on trade establishment with many bottles to open and a lot of female staff….”

      Frankly, most of the restaurant and wine bar staff I know don’t give a fig one way or the other — opening a bottle of wine with cork or screwcap is just that — opening a bottle of wine!!

  4. GEORGE says:

    I HESITATE TO EVEN GRACE THIS NONSENSE WITH ANY FORM OF COMMENT, BUT:
    — THE ABOVE-MENTIONED “PERCEPTIONS” AND “EXPECTATIONS” OBVIOUSLY DO EXIST … BUT ARE BASED ON SHALLOW, MARKETING-INDUCED PRECONCEPTIONS.
    — THE “ASSOCIATION BETWEEN CORK AND QUALITY” HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED THROUGH CENTURIES OF HYPE AND CONSUMER BRAINWASHING … AND IS PERSISTENTLY AND DESPERATELY REINFORCED BY —
    A) STAKEHOLDERS IN THE CORK-INDUSTRY;
    B) PRETENTIOUS WINE-SNOBS WHO HAVE MORE INTEREST IN, (AND KNOWLEDGE OF), SOCIAL FRIPPERY … THAN WINE QUALITY.

    THE PHOTOGRAPH ACCOMPANYING THIS ARTICLE LEADS ME TO SUSPECT THAT THIS PIECE IS WAY AHEAD OF ITS TIME … IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED ON APRIL 1, 2018.

  5. Jerome Zech says:

    Just wonder how much Dr. Spence was paid by Amorin, and the rest of the cork industry, to fund this study? Seems very un-scientific and subjective.

  6. Rusty Schakelford says:

    When will consumers learn?

  7. Richard says:

    Depending on what the target market is there is room for both. As a wine producer, I prefer cork and use Procork which has a membrane applied to either end of the cork which eliminates the risk of TCA being transmitted from the cork into the wine. Problem solved.

  8. Michael Crossley says:

    I would be curious to know how wine literate the sample audience was. If you select a group of non wine drinkers, you might find that the study gravitates towards the perception that a wine closed under cork was of a better quality – however I am not necessarily convinced that a serious collector or wine commentator would be seduced by the sound of a cork popping.

    I find that decanting a wine (regardless of closure) is a better way of elevating guest’s perceptions !

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