In 1997, Plumpjack, a 10,000 case Napa winery producing ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon bottled half of its 1997 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with screw caps. You might ask why they would so such a thing. According to PlumpJack, six to seven percent of all wines are corked and this is not a statistic that PlumpJack [or the wine industry in general] is willing to accept. Gordon Getty, founder of PlumpJack, attests, “There really isn’t much of an argument in favor of the cork except that it has been around for so long, and if others are afraid to be first [using the alternative closure], I’m not”. PlumpJack was willing to take a chance, so in 1997 they experimented and placed screwcaps to the test.
Although screw cap closers have always caused degrees of controversy in the industry, it was a chance PlumpJack was willing to take; by bottling their premium $160 bottles of Cabernet with corkscrew closures, they were proving to the industry [and consumers] that using this method was acceptable. Up until this time, most consumers were use to seeing relatively inexpensive [under $10] bottlings that primarily focused on white wine varietals.
Ten years later, PlumpJack wanted to commemorate the event by inviting friends and wine writers to taste the 1997 reserve Cabernets and to give them an opportunity to determine which one they preferred; a wine that had been poured from a bottle sealed with a cork, or a bottle sealed with a screw cap. Amazingly, most could not tell the difference between the two.
Now the industry has research to back up the argument that screw caps are able to sustain long bottle aging, but will it be enough to get others [winemakers and consumers alike] on board, or are we still struggling with the romanticism of corks?
Regardless, we should thank PlumpJack for taking the initiative, going out on a limb and proving us all wrong; with any luck we will see more and more winery success stories for many more years to come.