Stelvin Screw Caps

Cork, the traditional wine enclosure for centuries, has been getting a bad rap as of late due to its high propensity to succumb to cork taint. Depending on who or what you subscribe to you will find that anywhere from 4-7% of all wines enclosed with a cork are negatively affected by said cork! This is one of the main reasons that the wine industry has branched out, and actually sought out substitutes for the bark of an oak tree.

Rather than go into detail on all the other possible wine enclosures on the market (i.e. synthetic corks, glass corks, etc.), I will be concentrate on the screw cap – or more specifically the Stelvin. Since its inception in the late 1950’s, the Stelvin enclosure has been a point of contention. Wine buyers have associated a screw cap on a bottle of wine as a sign of a cheap, or poorly made wine, which up to a couple of decades ago was a pretty accurate assessment. (The inexpensive jug wines of California have traditionally been closed with a screw cap!). The first countries to get on board with the Stelvin screw caps were Australia and New Zealand. After customer backlash in the early 1980’s these screw caps were phased out, only to be gradually reintroduced in the 1990’s – with the aforementioned countries leading the charge. An example of this is that, in 2001 it is believed that ~1% of New Zealand wineries were using this enclosure, while by 2004 this had jumped to over 70%! (Today I would put this number at >90%). Ever since the success that these two countries had with the Stelvin enclosure, we have gradually seen other countries get on board – while this movement has been mostly driven by New World producers we are also starting to see the Old World countries starting to come around (Domaine Laroche in Chablis has been using these enclosures since 2001).

The questions remain: what is the Stelvin enclosure, and what benefits does it offer over cork? First of all, Stelvin is but one of many brands of these types of enclosures. It is the most well known, and highly regarded, with many in the trade often referring to all screw caps as “Stelvin closures” regardless of brand. A Stelvin screw cap has two distinguishing features:

1.)    A long, outside skirt. This is meant to resemble the “foil” found on a traditional wine capsule.

2.)    A neutral, plastic liner on the inside wadding of the cap called PVDC (Polyvinylidene chloride).

These features have put the Stelvin screw cap in a category of its own. No other “alternative” enclosure has the ability to control oxygen transfer like these, with wine makers having the option on various liners, ultimately resulting in a unique taste and aroma profile.

One of the main benefits of this type of enclosure is the fact that it 100% eliminates the chance of the dreaded cork taint. In addition to this, other benefits of such an enclosure include:

  • the preservation of a wine’s natural aromas and flavours, as well as its ultimate freshness
  • consistency of product from one bottle to the next (less bottle variation than with cork)
  • the ease to which a bottle of wine now can be opened, as well as closed (let alone the newfound benefits associated with shipping and storing)
  • a wide range of unique capsules, allowing for intricate design options

So as you can now see, there are many benefits to these primarily aluminum enclosures. They aren’t the sign of a cheap wine as many of our customers think, but rather a guarantee that the wine has a much greater chance of reaching its destination in the state that it was intended! By creating a tighter seal than cork, Stelvin enclosures can better preserve a wine’s aromatic freshness and aid in its overall quality and aging potential.  These enclosures are here to stay. Expect to see a higher portion of wines under screw caps in the future – especially the Stelvin screw cap!