Wine Club Newsletter - March 2021
Screw Cap vs Cork Closures
Back in November of 2015, I had written a story involving screw cap closures versus cork closures. I had written about a wine tour stop we made with our group at the winery of Sergio Mattura, who has been dubbed as the king of the infamous white grape, Grechetto.
Sergio pulled out all the stops that day for us. There was a huge spread of local cheeses, meats, fruits and sausages, and he began popping corks on his latest releases. We were having a grand time, then then he opened one of his Grechetto’s. This white wine had the weight of a Chardonnay, but with acid like that of a fine Chablis or White Burgundy.
In tasting this wine, I commented to Sergio about how special I thought the Grechetto was, and how here in the United States, we don’t see a lot of it. Then, I talked about how well balanced the wine was, and I felt it had potential to improve for 5-10 years in the bottle.
Sergio smiles, and lifts a finger signaling us to hold still, he will be right back. Sergio returns with a bottle of his Grechetto that was five years old, and cracks it open for us. As we taste the wine, it was quite evident that Grechetto, when aged properly, can age for at least five years. The wine was delicious, with still rounded fruit and a nearly youthful, bright acidity.
We applauded Sergio, which prompted him to lift his finger again, and we all knew he was going back to the cellar to provide us with another jewel to enjoy. Shortly, he returns, this time exhibiting a one of his Grechettos from ten years ago.
We are salivating in anticipation, as Sergio opens the bottle and pours me the initial taste for evaluation. The wine was not good . . . it was significantly darker than the 5-year-old Grechetto, but also had an off odor to it. Subtle, but enough to make me tell Sergio I was sorry, but I didn’t think the wine had made the 10-year journey intact.
Sergio pours himself a taste, and to my relief he agreed with me. He then, once again, lifts his finger, pivots, and heads back to his cellar, emerging with a wine from that exact same vintage, exact same wine barrel. The only difference was he used a screw cap closure for half the barrel, and now we are about to try the same 10-year-old wine from a bottle sealed with a screw cap instead of a cork.
The wine was absolutely magnificent! The color was appropriate, slightly golden, the aromatics were complex and clean, and the wine sang us a glorious song while traveling through our palates. It is a lesson (and a wine) that I will never forget.
This month, one of our wine club wines comes from Midnight Cellars Winery, their 2017 Zinfandel. For those of you in the Two-Rouge Wine Club, you will immediately notice the wine is sealed with a screw cap. The owner of the winery wrote the following explanation of why Midnight Cellars is converting to mostly screw cap enclosures, and I thought it would be a worthy read for everyone.
Enjoy! Gary Parker
SCREW CAP VS CORK CLOSURES
Midnight's explanation for why we have started to transition to screw caps:
First of all, when screw caps were first developed, they were indeed designed to be an alternative closure for white, ready to drink wines. As they became more accepted in the market, companies started to research the possibility of a screw cap designed for longer term aging. These have been tested extensively by major, high end producers, perhaps most famously Plumpjack Winery up north.
As the testing results came back over the years, tweaks have been made and the product improved. Currently, screw cap producers offer a wide line of options with the range of zero air exchange to different porosities to allow really any air exchanges the winemaker desires. As someone who personally likes to age wines, and produce ageable wines, I have waited for the dust to settle on a lot of these studies before making the jump.
Every time I open a bottle of corked wine, I am sad that this could have been avoided, simply by using a screw cap closure. I am assuming you are familiar with cork taint and the fact that it is a naturally occurring compound that taints a wine in as little as 5 parts per TRILLION! This imparts a "cork taint" that is most commonly described as a musty, band aid, wet cardboard type flavor and aroma and masks the true flavors of a wine. The current industry acceptable standard for this taint is 7%, which means that it is acceptable to cork producers and wineries that use cork closures to have 7% failure in their product, which is almost a full bottle per case!
As I am still sensitive to people's perception of a screw cap closure, I have decided to keep our reserve red wines under corks for the time being. However, I have decided to make the move to a screw cap closure on the rest of the wines. Please understand that I make wines to last, so thus have chosen a screw cap that has the exact air exchange as a high-end cork closure, just without the possibility of any cork taint.
Nothing matters to me more than my customers, especially wine club members, being happy with my wines, so I am always looking for ways to ensure that. All of our wines are being made with ageability in mind and I am just trying to assure that every bottle tastes the same and will improve in the bottle for years to come!
If you ever have any further questions about anything at all, please feel free to email or call me directly!
- Rich Hartenberger, Owner Midnight Cellars Winery