Is the World Ready for the ‘Screwcork?’
One of the biggest ongoing debates in the wine world is cork versus screwcap. More than just a debate between traditionalists and convenience lovers, wine packaging is also big business, and believe it or not, “big cork” (it really exists) isn’t interested in ceding its market share to some lousy aluminum. So for years, one of the world’s biggest cork brands has been looking to have its cork and screw it too, and now, these twist-open corks are about to take another commercial leap.
The “Helix,” which was developed by the Portuguese cork giant Amorim, is a kind of “screwcork”—or resealable cork. In practice, these corks are somewhat similar to the corks you might find in the top of a whisky bottle as they can be taken out and put back in repeatedly without much effort. But what makes the Helix unique is that the cork requires a special bottle with a threaded neck. Matching ridges in the cork allow it to be twisted back into the bottle for an airtight seal after opening. “An unexpected twist” is Amorim’s tagline.
This Helix innovation isn’t new. In fact, Sonoma’s Red Truck Wines became the first U.S. winery to start using the twistable cork back in 2016. But in case you’ve been wondering if you haven’t been drinking enough wine recently (don’t worry; you probably have), screwcorks aren’t yet taking the world by storm either. That might explain why Amorim appears to be declaring a big victory that, for the first time, a British supermarket chain will be using a Helix bottle. Starting this month, the U.K. grocer Co-op will be selling the Portuguese wine Vila Real Rabelo Red 2015 with a twist-open cork for about $8 a bottle.
“This is a modern twist on the traditional cork,” Co-op wine buyer Sarah Benson said according to The Drinks Business. “This is a real coup for us at Co-op and an example of how we are continuing to look for ways to innovate the category to meet the needs of our ever-changing customer base.”
If you’ve never seen a screwcork before, they are pretty cool. But at the same time, who is this “customer base” that’s really clamoring for a screwcap-cork hybrid? Probably the biggest argument in support of cork is that it’s supposedly better for aging wine—but if you’re planning to crack open a wine you’ve been aging and don’t have a corkscrew handy, maybe you’ve picked the wrong time to open that wine? As a result, the Helix seems a bit like an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” sort of situation—even if it does make for an intriguing novelty.