Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Put a cork in it!

I’ve been trying to find some good information out there on different types of wine closures. There has been a LOT of online chatter surrounding corks and screwcaps, etc. of late---lots of opinions flying about. I haven’t been able to dig up anything that didn’t seem to be distorted in some way by the producer of the closure itself---no truly well-done independent study. If you have one, I’d love to see it! So, in lieu of this, I started asking around. The information below is from a long-time wine pro who asked if she/he might remain anonymous. So here you have it:

Natural corks are the best but they need to be pure ones (made in one piece) and patiently selected. A good cork (sorry, a serious one) costs a lot of money (€1/1.30) and should be over 1 inch long (1 ½ is perfect).

For cheaper wines I allow the producers to use T4 as a safe solution. A T4 has a bottom and a top that are one piece and the middle is glued together. The problem is how they glue together the parts because the use of non-neutral glue or improperly washed cork can become a problem (TCA is more often from improperly washing the corks or wineries floors than not from unclean barrels). If there is a problem with a wine we swap the bottles but we also need the cork back. If we are talking about pure natural wines, cork is the choice for the simple reason that is impossible to have a natural wine stable for vintages younger than 2007 in 2010 (at least a cold stabilization and/or a filtration needs to be done – a silicone stopper would be too risky as the wine easily spoils in 3 years).

Silicon works for wines that you do not age and plan to drink in 2 years max. The reason? Silicon doesn’t have a so-called “memory”. Practically speaking, even when it does not crystallize externally, when you squeeze a silicon stopper in, it is going to shrink and shrink and shrink and then it becomes “loose” in the neck of the bottle. Some producers try to use them with me and will usually stop when I threaten them to send the wine back or I show up at their premise with an ax. In that case the wine oxidized (if was alive) or it doesn’t – if the wine has been already taxidermized (see below on screwcaps)

Glass can work but if the wine is meant for long ageing they need to put “this wine has become ‘inert’” on the label. (See below under screw cap.) Plus it is very difficult to do it right. Bottles are not perfectly equal in dimension in the neck and a difference of a micron can make all the difference. The cost of a closure like that and effectiveness is usually not worth it.

Screwcaps are air-tight. So if you put a living wine with a screw cap you will get the typical rotten egg flavor (as it is reduced by the lack of oxygen). In order to avoid this you need to “kill the wine” with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen during the process and usually this is the key… a practical pasteurization. Do not look at me like this… they have to. Particularly if you have a winery that works with more than 6 tons/ha they need to stop the malo (practically do a partial) to keep the wine together and the only way to do it is to kill any little cute bacteria inside … oh yeah and then they write on the brochure they have been growing grapes following a natural process… but they sent them to a concentration camp after and then if you do some more research you discover that they do not even own vines… better if I stop here

And that is the end of my friend's comments...

For your reading enjoyment, here is a google search of Wine Closures.

In my search for images, I found that a lot of people have spoken on this in the past and I would certainly love to link to your blog if you have a post on various types of wine closures! Leave your link in the comments. And by all means, I would certainly love to hear from winemakers on this and even collectors. What have your experiences been with the different closures?

I should have a nice post from another winemaker to put up very soon. Thanks for reading. I hope you'll join in the conversation!


---Wine Ophelia
photo credit: I have no idea. If you own it and want me to take it down, just tell me. :o) cheers!