A debate over the best closures for wine bottles—cork or screw cap—has raged ever since winemakers began putting screw caps on higher-end wines.
Now researchers at the University of California, Davis, are using science to answer the question once and for all, according to a news release.
They want to find out whether consumers can taste a difference in wines that were bottled and capped at exactly the same time with the same wine. The only difference will be the closure.
The researchers are evaluating 600 bottles of sauvignon blanc closed with either a natural cork, synthetic cork or screw cap.
The study will monitor chemical changes in the wine during aging, culminating with a sensory evaluation by wine experts and consumers during summer 2013.
The researchers want to determine whether the tasters can detect subtle differences in oxidation levels that occur during aging.
The researchers have even gone so far as to enlist the help of John Boone, a radiology professor, to obtain CT images of the 200 natural and synthetic corks.
They will use the images to analyze differences in the corks' internal structures.
"Our goal in this study is to determine if individual bottles might be getting a lot more or less oxygen—and therefore aging at different rates—as a result of the variation in the closures used to seal the bottle," Andrew Waterhouse, an enology and viticulture professor, said in the release.
He is conducting the study with undergraduate student Jillian Guernsey.