Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More on Closures: A Response

So, my friend has been following along, and while she/he does wish to remain a private citizen, he/she also wishes to clear up a few items and to expound a bit.

I hope that everyone will please play nice. I don't have much time or patience for snarky comments just so you know. Feel free to disagree all day long, prove your point ad infinitum, even ad nauseum, but keep it professional and civil please or I will edit your post or just won't post it at all. We are all, grownups I hope.

Now, mama's off her high horse...

Let's get right down to it, shall we?

In his/her words:


Answering some of the comments in your post in the most polite way I can:

You asked me for my preference and synthetically I told you what I do and prefer. Since there are some experts, let’s rock and roll things a little bit …

Corks: there are several types. What I mean for corks is a punched tree bark and one of certain technical specification (but let’s stay on a normal 38mm) that I have already indicated previously. Sure you can find cheap ones as well. If you make serious wines I want a serious cork in it (and I am talking real corks of course and for long ageing wines I will gladly take the risk of a cork over other closures. I want the wine to evolve on its own. I want to be surprised (and pleasantly) in tasting the same wine that can evolve differently sometimes depending on the vintage and location (yes location too); I don’t want copy cat – enough digression let’s stay technical.

What’s the problem with corks? You need to be able to select the right one. The vaporization (necessary process to clean them up) needs to be done in the right way otherwise you are going to face problems. A serious wine producer either uses more than one supplier and /or tests the corks for TCA etc.

Then there are technical corks, agglomerated corks etc. To me those have shown over time to be more risky. Vaporization is more complicated and also the gluing process but they cost far less than the above ones. There are some great examples though that are consistent in quality.

Glass stoppers;

comments made are correct; and what I said was that they are not air tight unless you are lucky.

“Silicon” stoppers and such: one of the replies states that are not made of silicon… partially true. All these stoppers pardon closures have been called silicon for a reason. While they are all made by “olde saurus blood” (if you don’t know what it is ask BP about it they may be interested in the discussion…) and they look very different in concept. Let’s stick with the most famous ones:

Nomacorc / Nucorc they use a co-extrusion of polyethylene,
Supremecorq uses thermoplastic elastomer injection molded
Integra uses Ethyl Vinyl Acetate injection molded

All of them use “olde saurus blood” in different forms... but all of them coated with silicon (duh if not I want to see you move the frigging thing same for technical corks by the way no silicon no party, particularly if the bottle is chilled the corkscrew is old and the waiter/waitress has a bad day or a mix of the above).

Like the technical corks, these are made for wines that are supposed to be drunk in 24 months or less. So if you are talking about totally naturally made wines, that is nonsense---ok they can be organic but not more than that. If you ask any of these producers as a buyer you can rest assured that all of them will guarantee their closures for 36months… after that it is your problem. And did you notice that all the tests performed and all technical brochures are made in a 24 month period? Guess why….

A pure cork (the serious 1 inch long stuff one piece and first choice thing) supplier will guarantee its closure for inherent defects for much longer (and they will make you pay for that, rest assured). The reason is that plastic stoppers (so to not upset people and not to call silicon stoppers or they will not sleep tonight) producers know exactly what they are making and targeting; which, by the way, is the majority of the market.

The problem with plastics is that all plastics is are sensitive to light, sun (ok bottles should stay in the dark but)… and they rapidly decay. Plus this one by its own characteristic is a plastic in that it needs to be squeezed into a hole and sealed (again maybe BP will be interested…). After a while the thing loses its own proprieties. Several solutions have been tried to keep it together (even with a frame inside and three different kinds of plastic) but so far the problem is that after 3 years the closure definitely crystallizes and doesn’t work properly. Plus the elasticity of the material is different. How many times do you find that it is basically impossible to put back in one of those corks once it’s been extracted? So if you are making wines that are supposed to last long time (and I personally like those) and you put them with “silicon” stoppers---well you can do it sure, you can you can even pee upwind if you want… but is not a smart decision.

Screwcaps /Stelvin… well the work nicely put it down by the Aussies had proved wrong (Australian Wine Institute is a nice source of information for wineries that do exactly what the Australian Wine Institute wants (which is not exactly their best artisan producers.) They follow the money too like every other country in the world. Screwcaps can make your life easier if you run an industrial winery and your production is high volume. But despite claims of certain producers with no vines who have all of a sudden become biodynamic, making wines in plastic bottle to save the environment (… no comment) that is not really true. Ask Tesco, who sent back I believe 10 containers of wine in 2007, how well the double chamber works. The double chamber is needed to bottle the wine. The wine gets stable if you make it stable before bottling it and during the process. And if there is a reduction, no biggie…a decanter works. Or you can fix it with cupper … sure you can, anything is possible. Then what about taking a lame white wine and filtering thru a used cat litter and male sauvignon blanc…Seriously speaking. The big difference in this case is once again what I, anonymous, consider wine and what the other side considers wine. To me a wine that has been manipulated a lot in the wine making department (which includes the filtration and bottling) even if legally is called wine is not that anymore for me; for them it is. It is a choice of course and everyone can do as they please. The day I see that a winemaker bottles an unfiltered wine in a small facility with a simple screwcap system and 15 years after the wine is fine and grown up well maybe then I will be convinced… I underline maybe.

Enough “brain masturb…”

These few notes are based on over 20 years in this industry, on my personal experience and belief. I do not consider myself a scientist, but I was lucky enough to make wines (just 7 times though) and to try a lot of them while doing something I love that still allows me to remain broke (but I give a lot of money to a lot of people). I read scientific publications and make up my own mind after talking with friends; some of them are winemakers that have 40+ harvests under their belts.

Regarding the anonymous writing, well couple of things... Raelinn asked me for my private opinion and I gave permission to publish it as long it remained anonymous. I find that in this industry there is unfortunately too much ego and many do things just to promote themselves while appearing as the “white knight”. I am not a blogger. I am not a social networker. I do not seek the approval from any journalist, whichever palate, points, etc. may be. So technically speaking I am an unsocial asshole. I am not saying don’t do it. If I import wines and I want to express my opinion or promote my wines as long as it is well understood who am I that is fine. I personally do not find ethical that, while we can express our opinion we take advantage of that. Too many times there are people involved in this business that are both involved in the sale of their own wines and also write on the side and promote them pretending to be journalists or independent bloggers or a mix of that without stating clearly that they are also making a profit by promoting them. That gives me an itch. What I care about is just the wines and people who make them and the people who enjoy them; anything else can go under a screw cap.

End of comments by my friend.

I hope that everyone will be respectful regarding the wishes of my friend to remain anonymous.

I hope that what this post might do is provide more of a platform for dialogue than for snarking. I'm interested in the information on the closures, as are many others given the number of questions I see out there.

I would LOVE to hear your opinions, see links to valid studies on the subject, etc. Otherwise, put a cork in it. :o) (really, I just couldn't resist. no aplogies.) heh heh.


Wine Ophelia

oh yeah... photo credits... as always, I found em on the web. If it's yours and you don't want me to use it, I'll take it down. Thanks.


  1. Oxygen transmission info from AWRI:

    pretty cool chart in the middle there...

  2. Another link to a slide deck on closures and purchase interest.

  3. Pretty cool paper from VA Tech:

    Definitely worth a read.

  4. Wow. That was seriously a lot of information but was really nice of your friend to send it along! Very cool.

  5. Thanks Kristi. Glad you enjoyed reading. Cheers!

  6. I enjoy debate, and enjoy wine with corks or screwcaps, even out of a box. But the argument that "manipulated" wine isn't wine doesn't work. The only way to drink un-manipulated wine is to pick moldy raisins from un-pruned vines on the ground, or growing wild on a fencepost, or tree somewhere and suck the sweet slightly alchoholic juice out of it. How elitist does that sound?