WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

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WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Dec 12, 2008 12:15 pm

Screw cap Bordeaux

A couple of months ago (Oct. 1, 2007 Wine Advisor), when we were talking about emerging problems with synthetic plastic "corks" as a practical alternative to natural cork, I mentioned that the sturdy modern version of the metal screw cap, conversely, seems to be gaining market share.

"Screw caps, initially abhorred because they evoked the cheap, rotgut wines that had long been packaged with a lightweight, simple version, have been gaining ground strongly in recent years," I wrote then. "Particularly Down Under, it is becoming hard to find a white wine with any other closure, and the [screw cap] is making strong inroads among reds.

"Even in the more wine-conservative U.S. and Europe, screw caps are becoming more and more common - and wine-savvy consumers are learning to embrace them, especially as lingering concerns about long-term aging begin to fade and producers master minor alterations in the bottling process."

Still, with the limited exception of Germany and Austria, where alternative closures have become common on white wines, Europe has largely stood as the last bastion for the natural cork.

So it came as a landmark moment this week when a savvy local wine merchant (Chris Zaborowski at Westport Whiskey & Wine in Louisville) pointed out a newly arrived Bordeaux that he declared a great value at $12.

I got it all the way home before I noticed the closure. A screw cap. A sturdy, modern screw cap on a Bordeaux. A Bordeaux! A historic wine region in the heart of France, perhaps one of the most traditional, conservative wine regions in the world.

Granted, it will be a long time, if ever, before natural cork departs the market entirely. But bear in mind that it has been less than 10 years since screw caps first entered the fine-wine market to any significant degree. At that time, screw capped fine wines drew "gee whiz" media coverage because the very notion of such a downscale closure on upscale wines seemed peculiar. Screw caps have come a long way in a relatively short time.

Frankly, with the possible exception of wines destined for export, I would have expected France to be the last European country (before Portugal, the primary source of natural cork) to start putting screw caps on even low-end reds from the respected Appellation Controllee regions.

Nevertheless, Chateau La Freynelle 2006 Bordeaux bears its sturdy screw cap proudly. Better yet, the wine within is, as my trusty merchant assured me, quite a value.

Although its appellation - Entre-Deux-Mers, a broad, flat region between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, is well separated from Bordeaux's more sought-after zones, the wine is chateau-bottled on a 225-acre property held in the Barthe family's hands since the French Revolution. Veronique Barth, who inherited the property in 1990 and is its first female oenologist and wine maker, has won numerous awards for the estate's wines. And now they're closing it with screw caps.

Chateau La Freynelle 2006 Bordeaux ($11.99)

Very dark purple with a clear garnet edge. Red berries and currants on te nose, attractive fruit, with just a hint of spice. Good, balanced fruit flavors follow the nose, fresh and crisp, with plenty of fresh-fruit acidity for structure and food-friendliness. Tannins barely perceptible as red-fruit flavors linger in a good, long finish. A blend of 65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, made at a discreet 12.5% alcohol. Fine, modest everyday Bordeaux, and the screw cap fosters unusual freshness. U.S. importer: Republic National Distributing Co., Louisville. (Dec. 10, 2008)

FOOD MATCH: Oven-seared natural pork chops with black pepper and a dash of pimenton (smoked paprika).

VALUE: Even a generic red Bordeaux is a pretty good deal at just over $10, and this generic Bordeaux stands well above the median for its genre. Buy up.

WHEN TO DRINK: Although generic Bordeaux isn't particularly ageworthy, its structure - and the screw cap - suggest it will keep well for at least a couple of years on the wine rack.

WEB LINK:
The Barth family Website is published in French and English, but it's heavy with Flash animations. With detemined clicking, you can work your way down to a page about Chateau La Freynelle, but there's no direct link. Here's the home page:
http://www.vbarthe.com

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Find sources and compare prices for Chateau La Freynelle Bordeaux on Wine-Searcher.com:
http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Freyn ... g_site=WLP

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Tim York » Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:17 pm

Robin,

Export savvy producers in France are getting increasingly interested in screw caps. One of the branches of the Lurton family has been bottling lesser Bordeaux for export under screw cap for two or three years. I believe that some of the Burgundians, e.g. Laroche and Boisset, are also sending screw capped bottles into export markets. However we don't see them here in Belgium and I would be surprised if there are any for sale in France.

I was told by a grower from Spain a couple of weeks ago that screw caps remain an absolute "no, no" in their domestic market and I think that the same applies to Italy even to the extent of their being disallowed for DOC in some appellations.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Ian Sutton » Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:26 pm

Once the move gains speed, you could see the en-primeur market as a suitable testing ground. You request in advance the wines, bottle size and the seal. If there's not enough interest for cork or screwcap (or other seal) then you're given the choice to pull out or take the other seal.

A good way to assess real customer demand (albeit a very traditional audience I suspect).

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Daniel Rogov » Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:59 pm

Robin et al......

Les Forts de Latour is coming out with a screwcap version as well. As much as I enjoy Les Forts in its good years, you should all live long enough until you find me buying a bottle with screwcap for my personal pleasure.

Me,a die-hard? Damned right I am.

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Peter Cargasacchi » Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:11 pm

I am not trying to be contrarian though I tend to get that label. As you have mentioned, a main issue with the screwcaps is the consumer perception issue.

I think that absent the consumer perception issue, if the winemaker understands the closure, from a wine qualitative standpoint, a properly bottled wine under screwcap should meet no resistance in the market. I don't need to rehash the technical attributes, there are plent of books on the subject. Yet as noted there is resistance.

Here is the contrarian rub on the issue of continued growth of the screwcap market segment. What happens if TCA becomes an irrelevant issue in current and subsequent vintages? What if TCA is eliminated from cork? I make a small amount of wine and bottled most of my 03 and 04 vintages in screwcap. But I returned to cork when I found a cork producer that had addressed the TCA issue and identified the critical control points in the forest and cork production facility. I was assured my 05 vintage would be less than 1% affected by TCA as a result of the changes in cork production they had adopted. (It actually tracked at 4%.) The 06 vintage is indeed tracking at around 1% and the 07 whites, (800 cases mostly sold and in large part already consumed,) is tracking at less than 1%!

Which leads to the question, what happens to screwcaps if TCA becomes an irrelevant issue in current and subsequent vintages? I believe that will happen. Early evidence and widescale changes in cork production, suggests this is very possible. Though the cork producers had been saying this for decades and not addressed it until screwcaps came on the scene.

A counterpoint would be that with screwcaps at roughly 15% the cost of cork and capsule, screwcaps are much less expensive, and under the right wine conditions a more uniform closure in terms potential bottle variation. So, in this economy, even presuming the elimination of TCA in cork, I think the technical strengths and economic value maintains a very strong incentive for continued screwcap market growth.

But at the same time, the projected demise of the cork as a common closure because of continued TCA problems, may be wrong. At which point one criticism of cork would still be that it is an archaic closure, but with wine, is that such a bad thing?
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:22 pm

Peter Cargasacchi wrote:
But at the same time, the projected demise of the cork as a common closure because of continued TCA problems, may be wrong. At which point one criticism of cork would still be that it is an archaic closure, but with wine, is that such a bad thing?


Peter, welcome!

If TCA issues in cork were truly at 1% across the board I would drop my personal vendetta. Too many things can happen to a bottle of wine regardless of what closure it has to worry about 1%.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Ian Sutton » Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:12 pm

Peter
Another welcome! from me and a fine first post.

Indeed I think the goalposts would shift if perceptable taint hit 1% and it would certainly give the cork producers a hope of staying in the game. I guess the key is measurement via samples as relying on returned bottles is dependant on the skills/perceptions of the tasters. The vast majority of wine drinkers can't spot TCA and even wine enthusiasts have a very mixed ability at spotting it.

There are other issues with cork, from crumbling corks which can be a pain to get out, through random oxidisation cork failures and recent issues with white burgundy (Premature oxidation, PremOx or the perhaps more apt POx), through the the random nature of ageing of cork sealed bottles. Taint is at last a focus, but the battleground encompasses all aspects.

At present cork has one clear advantage IMO, and that is a track record of the wines that do age successfully, having a loyal following who would be concerned by a different ageing profile. I can see how many will accept the current risks until something else is demonstrably better. For plenty of others, they've seen enough and actively seek screwcap, diam or similar.

That said, I suspect the vast majority, including those with sometimes strong views, still continue to buy the wine they like and accept the seal that's on that wine. I've yet to ignore a wine based on it's seal, though I do wish I had a greater proportion of screwcap sealed wines in the cellar.

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Daniel Rogov » Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:23 pm

And I, curmudgeon that I am, continue to dread the day that I am at let's say Guy Savoy or the Jean-Georges and, as my bottle of 2015 Chateau Margaux comes to the table, the sommelier to proudly display the label before makng that unique scrunching sound that the opening of a screwcap engenders.

I'm all for ready to drink whites in screwcaps. Hell, I'm even ready for young reds in screwcaps. But there I draw my personal aesthetic line. Yes, I'm willing to gamble on the 3-4% of TCA infected wines (for that is a realistic evaluation of wines impacted upon by TCA). And I'm willing to bet that at least 3 - 4% of screwcapped wines will be impacted upon by other faults, some of them indeed caused by the method of closure.

Sheesh......next week I'm going to be tasting Prosecco and Cava from tins (yup, 330 ml, the same kind that hold Coke, Pepsi and Diet Sprite. Taste them.....sure. Evaluate them at their worth....absolutely. Buy one? No way!!!!!

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Nigel Groundwater » Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:39 pm

Pichon Baron bottled its second wine under screwcap and cork for the 2004 vintage. I have only seen one report of a subsequent tasting which was inconclusive in the sense that there were good and less good things said about how the wine tasted from both - although TCA didn't figure. Anecdotal and too tiny to mean anything although all those bottles are out there and will start being drunk.

However my small point is that a top Bordeaux second growth did it a while ago.

Can I assume that Les Forts de Latour will be bottled under cork as well as screwcap? If not that would be an even more significant step.

Pichon Baron also bottled a rose under screwcap recently which we had last week out of interest. That certainly had a strong smell of reduction when opened but it blew off fairly quickly. However it wasn't a particularly good rose.

On the other hand the very successful Chateau de Sours rose has been bottled under screwcap for the last 4 [or so] vintages and I do not recall significant reduction aromas - my wife has been drinking this for years [won't drink red but will occasionally drink rose] and it is a favourite. Chateau de Sours also do a red and a white and although I haven't seen them would guess they might be bottled under screwcap too.

Of course roses would be uncontroversial wines to bottle under screwcap for all but the most fanatical 'corker' but the Pichon Baron and apparently the Forts de Latour are certainly more significant moves.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:51 pm

Peter Cargasacchi wrote:I am not trying to be contrarian though I tend to get that label. As you have mentioned, a main issue with the screwcaps is the consumer perception issue.

Peter! Welcome! I'm delighted you came over here (we met on Facebook, folks), and hope you'll consider making our Merrie Little Bande a regular stop on your Web-surfing rounds.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Hoke » Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:54 pm

Peter, you raise some interesting points about screwcap/cork/cork taint.

I would agree with you that I think the direction is toward increased market share for screwcap closures. For the following reasons:

1. TCA was the major problem, certainly the most dramatic problem that drove the perceived need for an alternative to such a faulty system as cork, as well as an industry that arrogantly refused to clean up their own act. But it wasn't the only problem; far from it. So, even if that major problem has been (or can be; the evidence is far from solid on that so far), I believe the screwcap has established enoug momentum, and provided enough advantages, as to convince producers there product is better under screwcaps than under cork (or other alternatives).

2. Screwcaps create a better, more consistent, more long term reliable seal to the precious commodity inside. It is more respectful of the wine, the producer, and the investor/consumer. It is also, in my view, a more ethical closure. I devoutly disagree with Daniel that accepting an up to 4% expected failure rate in product when that can be easily prevented, and that producers who accept that are ethically dishonest with their customers, unless they explicitly state that to them.

3. There are always recidivists, luddites, curmudgeons, and those generally resistant to change of any sort. And good on them, sez I. They preovid a natural brake of sorts. Things will change anyway, when there is enough attention applied. And all those recidivists will be pushed out on the fringe and eventually die (as will we all). And things will change. Most people prefer positive change, especially when they see (or are taught) the positive aspects. That is what I believe is happening with screwcaps. (Even Daniel has...grudgingly...altered his position over the last few years, from a line in the sand and a stake in the ground (NEVER!!!) to a qualified, degreed, incrementalized, hesitant but forward moving acquiescence. And I believe when that horrifying moment he describes comes about, it won't be nearly as horrifying as he expects it to be, he will have modified by then, and the lure of that Margaux, and his essential curiousity, will overcome any remaining objections he has. :D (Yeah, like Rogov is going to say no to Margaux. Right. :twisted: )

4. What it comes down to is screwcaps are simply better at doing what they are supposed to do than corks are. And once you've recognized that, and changed, why go back to a product already proven inferior?
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Daniel Rogov » Fri Dec 12, 2008 6:06 pm

Hoke....

Just to be perfectly clear on this.....I will never fully die. I intend to leave an automated machine behind that will periodically post about my luddite/curmudgeonly/out-and-out-stubborn insistence on the good things of life.

And no fear, that automated machine, like me, will take pleasure in occasional exageration.

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Nigel Groundwater » Sat Dec 13, 2008 7:03 am

Hoke

I try to stand in the middle of this debate but your words are very emphatic and anti-cork but you have not provided a rationale to support them. I realise this takes quite a lot of time and space but I have attempted to set out below my reasons for gently disagreeing with your apparent certainty that the screwcap is the only logical and indeed, ethical, closure.

You say:
Screwcaps create a better, more consistent, more long term reliable seal to the precious commodity inside. It is more respectful of the wine, the producer, and the investor/consumer. It is also, in my view, a more ethical closure. I devoutly disagree with Daniel that accepting an up to 4% expected failure rate in product when that can be easily prevented, and that producers who accept that are ethically dishonest with their customers, unless they explicitly state that to them.

While the screwcap has much to commend it there are still significant issues of aroma and taste related to reduction and the routine attempts to remedy it through e.g. copperfining. These themselves raise wine quality, chemical and even health issues through excess copper in the wine or the potentially dangerous residues remaining following the occasional need to remove excess copper following the ‘fining’.

In addition while a cork can be accused of aroma scalping so can the copperfining process which is used increasingly in a bid to avoid reduction issues under screwcap.

There is also the question of whether the closure will ultimately prove to be best for long term ageing as well as the whether consumers in certain cultures will accept the screwcap or similar. The critical liner material also remains an issue as does the potential for physical damage to the cap during handling for transportation and storage which cork does not share.

New Zealand and Australia have shown [it having failed dismally first time round] that the screwcap can be accepted for all sorts of wine but with respect to those countries they don't have many of the world's top long-ageing wines - and those that they have, like Grange, are not yet available to the public under screwcap although other top Penfold reds are and I understand that even Grange is under test.

While these countries are in the vanguard of the screwcap movement there is a logic to that in the sense that they suffered even more than most in the past from an inferior, tainted cork product. However it is perhaps also notable that one of the main cautionary voices concerning the headlong rush to the screwcap is himself a New Zealand winemaker who also happens to be a PhD chemist and a Fellow of the NZ Institute of Chemistry with a specialisation in wine chemistry. Dr. Alan Limmer has published several papers on these issues. And there are a few examples of producers turning back to cork for some of their wines while experts like Brian Croser remain unconvinced that the screwcap is yet a proven solution for all wines.

George Taber’s excellent book ‘To Cork Or Not To Cork’ provides extensive additional background and these pretty up-to-date references can be further updated and expanded by searching on the web.

Of course all these issues require continued research and analysis but far from your 'certainty' expressed in your paragraph highlighted above the situation appears far from clear or one-sided. IMO ethics are indeed involved, particularly at the limits, but are not confined to one side of the argument.

At the same time the best and biggest cork producers have recognised [very belatedly] that their product needs to be enormously improved particularly in terms of TCA - and they have taken major steps in this decade, particularly in recent years: large investments in facilities, processes, testing and quality management to address that issue.

I also think it is also entirely fair to say that hubris and complacency delayed a reasonable and required response until effective competition from screwcaps and other closures forced the issue. But irritation and frustration are not good reasons for making decisions without a full understanding of the problems on both sides and the routes to their resolution.

Some erstwhile cork companies have even moved 'cork' into competition with cork and do not shy away from highlighting the problem with TCA despite it having almost ruined them through the failure of their first attempts - having of course now resolved it for their own product, made safe by a process utilising super-critical CO2 to produce a 'cork' from an agglomeration of treated pieces of natural cork. I refer to the Diamant process and DIAM and Mytik Diamant corks for still and sparkling wines respectively.

These come with a guarantee which even acknowledged 'bark-haters' have yet to find problems with - as their large and growing list of clients will testify. Look at their website for the listing if you have any doubts.

At the same time natural cork has been improved enormously and this will continue since the Industry's future depends on it. Peter Cargasacchi's eminently reasonable post is one of many similar accounts of wine professionals seeing a recent improvement in the performance of natural cork from the TCA perspective.
I doubt whether even the most ardent ‘corker’ believes that a 4% failure rate is acceptable or sustainable and unless levels are reduced to around 1% and better, natural cork will have to resign itself to continuing a decline which will probably accelerate.

Meanwhile there seems to be no reason why manufactured cork products like DIAM should surrender to the screwcap, Vinolok, Zork or any of the other alternatives and has already attracted an impressive list of customers. Of course while the Diamant process seems to have proved itself from a TCA viewpoint there is still the question of ageing although there is no contrary evidence that I am aware of to date for that closure. IMO the battle is far from over and ethical issues swing both ways.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Covert » Sat Dec 13, 2008 7:39 am

I’m not going to suggest that a $12 Bordeaux is an oxymoron, but it rings with the same consequence of perhaps a $10 call girl.

And I wouldn’t exactly say that France put the screw cap on the bottle – more accurately the decision maker at Chateau La Freynelle did – just as, say, Casy Anthony's actions do not necessarily parallel America's.

I continue to watch the development with fascination, but this appears to be a baby step.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Tim York » Sat Dec 13, 2008 8:45 am

Thanks, Nigel, for one of the most balanced accounts of the closure issue which I have yet seen. This helps to comfort me in my oft repeated and frequently derided view that there is no substitute for credible long term tests in assuring full market acceptance of screw caps or other alternative closures for acknowledged age-worthy wines.

Is the still inadequate 4% failure rate with natural cork just TCA related or does it take account of excessive ullage and other variables of cork performance? I find that as bottles age the latter become very significant in leading to wine under-performance.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Nigel Groundwater » Sat Dec 13, 2008 10:19 am

Tim York wrote:Thanks, Nigel, for one of the most balanced accounts of the closure issue which I have yet seen. This helps to comfort me in my oft repeated and frequently derided view that there is no substitute for credible long term tests in assuring full market acceptance of screw caps or other alternative closures for acknowledged age-worthy wines.

Is the still inadequate 4% failure rate with natural cork just TCA related or does it take account of excessive ullage and other variables of cork performance? I find that as bottles age the latter become very significant in leading to wine under-performance.

Tim, thank you in turn for your comments. The cork versus the rest argument does seem to be unusually polarised and almost religious in its intensity with the seeming dismissal of any scientific analysis that provides contrary information one way or the other.

One can understand the enormous frustration of those that have suffered TCA taint to the unusually high levels sometimes claimed. While 3-5% is often seen as an estimate for TCA infection due to cork and appears quite widely accepted [although ‘average’ consumer identification is much lower] there are those that have claimed a personal experience of 10% and some much higher. As far as I know the '4%' figure is TCA only and does not relate to other issues like ullage caused by other failure mechanisms.

However there is growing anecdotal evidence that TCA levels have been substantially reduced and greatly increased testing of the product by producer and customers would appear to support that.

On the other, hand the higher level claims usually introduce the issue of an undetectable [by most humans] level of TCA still ‘stripping flavour and aroma’ from wine. Of course exactly the same is said by the other side concerning the effect of efforts to avoid reduction under screwcap. In addition to which there is the ‘scalping’ of wine by cork itself through absorption versus the ‘scalping’ of positive flavour compounds by fining to avoid screwcap issues. Nevertheless TCA studies for various closures have also shown that even top experts, capable of sensing TCA at extremely low levels, get it wrong around 10% of the time i.e. call TCA that is not there when the test is done using GC-MS Gas Chromatography- Mass Spectrometry analysis.

Oddly the absorption effect of a cork can also been shown to be positive with its partial absorption of excessive TDN [1, 1, 6-trimethyl-1, 2-dihydronaphthalene; the petrol/kerosene aroma] in some Australian Rieslings while the screwcap maintains the TDN to the point where the wines are deemed faulty by judges when opened. I state this paradox not to justify the cork or blame the screwcap but to illustrate that what sounds good and/or bad may be so in some cases but not in all. It is also an indication that the research and analysis and further understanding of the wine chemistry are necessary and useful.

At this point IMO whatever the sins of the cork industry and the righteous anger against the producers it makes no sense to dismiss a product that has been and continues to be substantially improved and that, when it has worked, as it has in the vast majority of cases, has provided great results. Particularly while the main challengers still have significant issues to be resolved.

Meanwhile what Pichon Baron has done and apparently Latour is planning to do [bottle their second wines under cork and screwcap] makes sense since they are approaching the issues and the market in a rational and suitably cautious fashion bearing in mind the culture: the wines are those that do not require significantly long term aging, they allow their customers a choice and permit a direct comparison over time.
This at least should provide a partial test in support of your view that such efforts are necessary. Not quite the Baron or Latour itself but a substantial step forward.

As I mentioned in my first post, Penfolds also have some top level reds with aging potential under screwcap so the evidence will start to become available in the years ahead.

Separately, it is perhaps interesting that Latour should be taking this step since they [along with some other famous French wineries] had a major TCA problem back in the 90s due to a winery infection rather than the corks. They, and the other famous names, fixed their problems by essentially rebuilding their facilities taking care to minimise wooden structures and avoid the use of halophenols and other halogenated products [used for cleansing, fire retardants and pest control] which ultimately facilitated the production of TCA and other haloanisoles and infected their structures, equipment and then their wine directly and, possibly, through airborne transfers.

Non-cork haloanisoles taint in wine is real and the incidence of TCA in wine can be traced to winery infections in several other countries including the USA and South America. While this clearly does not in any sense absolve the cork industry from their enormously larger responsibility for TCA in wine it does explain why TCA is found where no cork has been including wine under screwcap. Of course that is nothing to do with the screwcap but it wasn’t anything to do with cork either.

Pace. Let science rule and let’s share as much as we know or think we know and report the news; good, bad and ugly.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Ian Sutton » Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:16 am

C'mon guys :( this is a closure debate! Aren't we meant to start throwing grenades at each other? :? You haven't even dug any trenches :roll:

Seriously, good to see such balanced approaches in evidence.

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Peter Cargasacchi » Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:38 am

Thanks for the welcome! I'd jump pellmell into the debate but got a big storm looming and need to batten the hatches here.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Victorwine » Sat Dec 13, 2008 12:01 pm

Welcome Peter and congratulations on your well written first post here at WLDG!
I would just like to add that not only should the winemaker understand the “enclosure” he/she should also know the wine the best and choosing the “proper” (or most fitting) enclosure is the last winemaking decision that he/she has to make. As long as the winemaker is making the call (and not marketing people) the consumers should not give them “flak” for the decision.

Great posts Nigel! I also disagree with Hoke, not all wines (depending upon how they are made) require a “consistent and reliable seal”. I’m in the camp that believes that a wine that has the potential to age might benefit somewhat from an enclosure that allows variable oxygen ingress. Being an amateur winemaker I have realized “timing” is critical to both viticulture and vinification. So a bottle of wine that is laid to rest in a wine cellar, at a given time during its “evolution” and depending upon its “chemical state” at that moment, a slightly higher oxygen ingress rate might be beneficial. Then again maybe at another moment in time of its “evolution” and depending upon its “chemical state at that moment of time a lower or no oxygen ingress might be more beneficial. Pasteur once said that oxygen is both friend and foe of wine. A wine that “remains on course” is not the same as a wine that “bottle ages”.

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Steve Slatcher » Sat Dec 13, 2008 2:45 pm

I'm really surprised how many people here are willing to accept a TCA failure rate of 1%. Would you also think it fine if other items of food and drink were similarly affected? These days I expect something a lot closer to zero (for ALL fault types) for milk, bread, cans of beans etc, and I don't see why it should be any different for more expensive items like wine. Of course, if there really is a technical reason why less than 1% is impossible, then fine - for now. But I still think we should strive for better, whetever the closure.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Hoke » Sat Dec 13, 2008 3:17 pm

Nigel, thank you for your eloquent and detailed response. You illuminate some issues regarding screwcaps that are worth discussing, and you do it well.

I do wish to correct one thing that you repeatedly hammer at: you seem to imply that my stance is one-sided and ignorant of the issues involved, that my emotion clouds my judgement and my conclusions are therefore flawed.

Why would you not assume that I weighed the evidence that was available to me and made my decision accordingly?

You mention several points that, I agree, are still under debate. Reduction, of course, was your lead. Reduction is a problem, yes, but one that I believe is overstated (in relation to other aspects). Reduction occurs most markedly when a winemaker is new to screwcaps and has not adjusted to changed circumstances. Copperfining can be abused, yes, most certainly; it also need not be detrimental to wine when done carefully and moderately. I have had several exceptional Rieslings under screwcap, for instance, that showed the full range of flavors and aromas of the variety (and the terroir)...and it is difficult to hide or disguise that most transparent of grapes. I might counter that any 'flavor scalping' that might occur in a Riesling might be preferable to egregious sulphur dosing that is all too commonly used to preserve certain Rieslings.

You also seem to think that my decision towards screwcap---or more properly, away from cork---is motivated largely by my anger and frustration at the cork producers. While there is anger...and contempt, most assuredly...against the antiquated leaders of the cork industry who so callously destroyed or tainted some of my favorite beverages, I also realize that there are new leaders, change agents, in place in those same industries, and that huge strides are being made to change both the efficacy of the product and its image in the world. Good on them. It was about time.

But that's hardly the issue, Nigel, and hardly the reason that I came to the conclusions about closures I currently hold. I have no need to punish the cork industry. I certainly would not make my decisions based on doing so. That would be rather silly, wouldn't it?


Nope. I base my decision on my belief that screwcaps are the best existing closure for wine. Whether long or short term. Whether white or red. I am aware of much (though I will freely admit, not all) of the research and the data, and have weighed the pros and cons. If you wish to come to a different conclusion than I do, that's fine.

You mention George Taber's book: I've read it. I've written a review of it. I enjoyed reading it very much, and I appreciated both the background and the current information offered by George. I've reccoed it to others as essential reading, and recco it now to anyone on this board interested in the topic.

You mention alternative closures, and champion them. That's fine too. I am not married to the screwcap; I have always...always...said that I would readily adapt another closure device should one prove superior to the screwcap. Thus far, none have proven thus. I am aware of the DIAM. As a matter of fact, one of my very close friends and a former colleague is in charge of the marketing for that company, and I've had several discussions with him; in addition, my company's winemakers and production/qc people have been experimenting with DIAM for some time now. My view is that, while DIAM has satisfactorily addressed the one issue of TCA, it does not necessarily address the other closure concerns, and thus provides no advantage over screwcaps. Can't see any reason---at this time, that position may change with new evidence---of switching from screwcaps to DIAM.

Victor: Your post puzzles me a bit, because I can't quite decide what you're saying---or if what you're saying is what I think you're saying. :)

What you appear to be saying is that you think corks are a better closure for your purposes because they introduce an uncontrolled variable to the aging process. (I wish there was an icon provided for scratching my head, because this is an instance where I would use it.) Okay, I'm not a winemaker; on the other hand, I have spent a lot of time with winemakers, so I'll try to figure this one out: you desire to follow a prescribed system of making your wine through careful control of the variables in the process. Then you want to put your resulting wine under a closure that essentially throws it up to the whim of the gods?

Say it ain't so. :D Sounds awfully Coturri-ish to me.

Now, if I'm wrong, and what you're seeking is the ability to lay down your wines and age them with the slow introduction of oxygen, and thus benefit from that style of aging/development....heck, you can do that right now with screwcaps. It's available.

Love to stay involved in this post, and this debate (thanks guys for making it interesting), but am inexorably pulled away...
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Nigel Groundwater » Sat Dec 13, 2008 4:10 pm

Steve Slatcher wrote:I'm really surprised how many people here are willing to accept a TCA failure rate of 1%. Would you also think it fine if other items of food and drink were similarly affected? These days I expect something a lot closer to zero (for ALL fault types) for milk, bread, cans of beans etc, and I don't see why it should be any different for more expensive items like wine. Of course, if there really is a technical reason why less than 1% is impossible, then fine - for now. But I still think we should strive for better, whetever the closure.


How many people here accept 1% Steve? I certainly wouldn't if another closure was substantially better and did not introduce other potential failure modes.
However I can understand people who have had higher than average TCA rates -say 5-20% - might more readily accept 1% while other closures have unresolved issues. After all, the vast majority of their greatest vinous moments will have been produced under cork. I don't believe that's the same as accepting a 1% failure rate per se.

The Diamant process claims to achieve a guaranteed solution to TCA and even offers alternative oxtrans rates but one assume only time will tell whether this will achieve comparable long term aging results compared to TCA-free natural cork - which is also one of the key issues that the screwcap must confront. The Pichon Baron and Forts de Latour trials are IMO a significant step.

In addition I have seen nothing that suggests that the natural cork producers intend to stop at 1%. IMO they would be foolish to do so.

I too have to absent myself from this discussion but I will be back to respond to Hoke's helpful and more communicative second post.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Victorwine » Sat Dec 13, 2008 6:19 pm

Hoke, you make it sound as if man has a full understanding of what is happening inside of a bottle of wine as it bottle ages. Because alternative enclosures can be specifically designed and engineered to allow a fixed or controlled amount of oxygen ingress, man will gain a better understanding of what is happening in a bottle of wine as it ages. My thoughts were more in line with- maybe the chemical reactions that do take place during bottle aging are more complex than we think, and instead of being “simple’ chemical reactions they are more in line with a series of step-wise, inter-related chemical reactions. Maybe a fixed and controlled amount of oxygen ingress is not so favorable. Maybe it is. Maybe a variable amount of oxygen ingress is favorable. (Maybe the timing of the oxygen ingress is important). Maybe it isn’t.

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Screw cap Bordeaux

Postby Hoke » Sat Dec 13, 2008 10:40 pm

Victor, I don't believe that man has a clear understanding of what happens in the process of aging.

Yes, I believe that with the ability to control and monitor oxygen ingress man will be able to better understand the process. I also agree with you that we will indeed discover that such processess are more complex than we might think.

But your reply put to mind at rest. I can certainly agree that we need more research, more knowledge, in how wine ages.
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