When I opened a $15 bottle of wine recently, I was surprised to find that it was a screw cap bottle. I always approach a bottle of wine with a cord screw in hand. Why was this bottle of wine closed with a screw cap while most have corks in them?

First, the closure of a wine bottle is the means by which it is sealed. Traditionally, wine has been sealed by cork. Wineries began using crew cap closures in the mid-twentieth century.

One of the easiest ways to understand why a winery adopts one closure over another is within sight of the bar at the Habersham Vineyards & Winery tasting room. Behind the plate glass window you can see the bottling line. It’s a Dr. Seuss kind of contraption where empty bottles come in one end and cases of wine go out the other. With the flip of a switch – after plenty of set-up – the bottles are prepped, the wine flows, the corks are inserted and the label and the foil applied. Voila! Cases and cases of wine ready to sell.

Were the wine to be closed with screw caps, the “contraption” would be very different. (Here’s the part where you need to visit the tasting room to see the bottling line, preferably in action.)

The bottles themselves would be dissimilar. A bottle accepting a cork has a smooth lip. A bottle closed by screw cap, has a threaded neck.

The device that inserts the corks would be a replaced by one that screws a foil cap onto the bottle.

These two differences represent a tremendous financial investment for the winery. Once the decision is made to use corks or screw caps, money is poured into the bottles and the bottling machinery. To change from cork to screw cap is no small decision.

Habersham’s wine maker, Andrew Beaty, says that except for big red wines that are designed to age, the screw cap serves wine just as well as natural cork and better than synthetic cork. Habersham closes all of its wines with cork. In the end, the winery and the wine maker decide what kind of wine to produce and what kind of closure to use.

To watch the wine-meets-bottle-meets-cork-meets-foil and label at Habersham Winery, contact the tasting room at 706.878.9463. You may be able to schedule your visit to see the Dr. Seuss contraption in action.

For a fascinating look at cork production visit this site.