A recent study by Oxford University has claimed that corks are preferred over screw caps for sealing a bottle of wine (as reported by Decanter Magazine, Sept 2017).
Perhaps surprisingly, the Oxford researchers put their findings down to the sound of the cork, rather than the smell or taste of the actual wine that they concluded makes the wine taste better.
The study (by a team at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory headed up by psychologist Professor Charles Spence), involved 140 participants who tasted two Argentinean Malbecs – a Terrazas de los Andes and a Catena – after listening to the sound of a cork being opened, and then after listening to a screw cap bottle being opened.
The participants were then asked to resample the wines after opening bottles sealed with corks and screw tops themselves (crucially, tasting the same wines but sealed differently).
They were then asked to score the wines on ambience, sound, aroma and sight, after which 113 participants said that they preferred a wine with a cork, many of whom claimed that uncorking bottles created a more ‘celebratory mood’.
Overall, the study concluded that: ‘the majority of those questioned preferred the taste and flavour of the wine from a cork stoppered bottle. These results are consistent with the view that the effect on mood might be driving part of the change in ratings elicited by the sound of the cork.’
Professor Spence added that: ‘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.’
However, the study’s conclusion will not end the debate over whether the cork (made from the bark of the Quercus Suber) or the screw cap is the superior closing. It should be noted that advancements in cork making have reduced incidences of cork taint.