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Age old argument exploded; Raise AGlass.

Byline: Laurence McCoy

THE latest Harry Potter adventure is ample proof that people still have a hankering for fairy stories.

But there can't be many people left who still believe that corks are the best way to seal a bottle of wine.

Once upon a time corks and wine bottles went together like... well, that was once, but now consumers are finally coming over to the viewpoint of most modern, go-ahead winemakers that screwcaps or plastic stoppers are the best chance of avoiding 'corked' wine.

Something like five per cent of wine is estimated to be spoiled by cork taint, leaving it smelling like a wet dishcloth, or worse.

And the disappointment of saving a prized bottle for a special event and then finding it is corked should be more than enough to change anyone's mind about cork being a magical ingredient of the wine-drinking experience.

The alternatives to cork, such as screw-caps and plastic stoppers, have gradually been increasing in popularity and now seal around a third of wine bottles worldwide.

That's a big change to ten years ago when more than 95 per cent of wine bottles had a cork in them. In places like New Zealand nearly all the wine is sealed with screwcaps, and that includes reds as well as whites.

The respected Washington State Hogue Cellars winery is one of the latest to switch its total production to screwcaps, after an extensive study.

"Until now, acceptable wine aging standards have been defined by the cork closure," says Hogue Cellars director of winemaking Coman Dinn. "However, this study shows that wines aged under the right screwcap closure over five years were better preserved, aged well and were the highest quality."

The cork producers, mainly in Portugal, claim moving away from corks will decimate their cork forests and wildlife, but actually most of the cork forest output ends up as flooring and other industrial products so that argument sounds a little bit like eco-blackmail.

There's no need to feel you're letting down the planet the next time you twist off a screw-cap.

Cork is best - what a load of Hogwarts!

Best Buy: Summer calls out for fresh, clean white wines and a crisp blend from Chile fits the bill nicely. Yali Wetlands Sauvignon/Chardonnay is usually pounds 6.69 but it's down to pounds 4.99 until August 21 at Morrison's.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jul 29, 2011
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