Aluminum wine bottle capsules. / Photo by: Tom Arena
Most wines are adorned with a capsule atop the bottle. Whether made of plastic, aluminum, tin or something else, they are so ubiquitous sommeliers have an elaborate ritual to cut through them. Screwcap bottles emulate them.
But as omnipresent as they are, the time has come for wine capsules to go away.
Historically, capsules were used to protect against vermin chewing on cork, to keep the top of a bottle clean and to make it more difficult to counterfeit wine. With cellars mercifully cleaner and less rodent infested, counterfeiters more sophisticated and wineries having better ways to ensure authenticity, capsules today serve two purposes: decoration and branding.
“They add absolutely nothing outside of visual value and cost a fortune,” laments Morgan Lee, owner of Two Vintners in Maltby, Washington. “But consumers have been trained to see them as a marker of quality.”
Indeed, capsules are not cheap. Tin ones, for example, can add over $4 per case; that’s a six-figure investment for a 25,000 case per year winery.