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Screwcap vs Natural Cork: The contest

Cork or aluminum screwcap?

Each method has its advantages…and drawbacks. Cork has more than 2,000 years of history, it’s a natural product that makes a wonderful sound when released from the bottle, and its effectiveness in protecting a wine for decades has long been proved. But it comes with 2 major problems: A molecule (called TCA, Trichloroanisole for purists) can contaminate the cork and transfer an awful taste to the best wines. Studies varies, but between 3% to 5% of all bottles could be affected. Moreover, corks are not of an identical quality, some being less airtight than others (usually cheaper ones) and their reliabilty can be hasardous over time.

The screwcap (invented in France in 1968) is far from being glamorous, is in aluminum, does a strange sound on opening… but allows to get rid of a corkscrew, to close the bottle, and never to be annoyed again with tainted wines. Srewcaped bottles, not affected by dryness, can also be stored horizontally… And the level of sulfur (SO2) added to the wine to prevent it from oxydisation can be lowered…

But what are the differences in wine evolution? Here is a nice experience. A blind tasting of 2 identical wines, same vintage, same date of bottling. One being closed with a cork, the other one by a screwcap. Who won?



Tasting conditions :

Test organized by Stelvin, screwcap specialist
10 participants
Wines served anonymously, glasses identified by a colored dot
Wines tasted, one with cork, the other one with a screwcap
- Nuits-saint-georges blanc 1er cru, Les Terres Blanches, Domaine Michèle et Patrice Rion, 2005
- Same wine, vintage 2007
- Saint-émilion grand cru, Château Vieux Larmande 2003



1st round : Nuits-saint-georges blanc 2005 :

First glass has a pink dot, the second a purple one
Color (robe) is the same.
Pink dotted glass : First nose is not clear, the wine needs to breathe. After oxygenation, citrus tones are dominated by wooded notes during maturation. In mouth, the wine is smooth, but the finale, still marked by wood, is not really pleasant.
Purple dotted glass : Nose is less expressive, but the wood is melted. To citrus, fresh bread and fresh cream notes can be added. The finale is clearer, more precise and ends with citrus.
Unanimously, everyone goes for the purple:
This is the corked version of the wine. Embarrassed silence in the room, Stelvin staff still smiling though.



2nd round : Nuits-saint-georges blanc 2007 :

Orange vs Green.
Color is about the same, though a little stronger (a sign of evolution) on the green glass.
Orange dotted glass : Nose is open, exhuberant, full of citrus and flowers. In mouth, a strong acidity and again, wooded tones.
Green dotted glass : Nose is almost identical, but slightly more refrained. Acidity is more pleasant, aromas are more floral, and the finale buttery.
Participants are more divided. Anyway, a majority opts for the green one. Once again, it’s the corked bottle. We don’t dare looking the guys from Stelvin in the eyes…


3rd round : Saint-émilion 2003 :

Blue vs Orange
Colour is merely the same, a bit darker for the orange glass maybe.
Blue dotted glass : Nose is very fresh (quite surprising for a 2003 vintage, very hot year), with notes of red berries, old wood and slight leather. In mouth, the wine is round, serene, the finale is long, with a bit of cocoa. Very nice indeed.
Orange dotted glass : Nose is more evolved, more concentrated, deeper. Animal notes are present, with leather and fur. In mouth, the wine seems to go everywhere, a bit of a mess with the tannins.
This time, partcipants are more divided, about half-half. The Stelvin staff is delighted.


Conclusion ?

First, differences in terms of evolution are more important than I thought. It seems, at the end of that test, that screwcapped wines have aged less than corked ones.

We miss some hindsight, but shall that mean that screwcapped wines could age longer? We’ll come back to you in a few years on that question! Anyway, this method is largely used in Australia and Switzerland, countries where about 80% of the wines use aluminum caps. In France, some famous winemakers have already started, such as  Albert Mann in Alsace, Henri Bourgeois in Sancerre, Montrose in Languedoc, André Lurton in Bordeaux and Laroche à Chablis.

Today, out of 18 billion bottles in the world, 4 billions have caps. And tomorrow ?


What do you think?


The original article was written by Miss Glou Glou (a famous French wine blogger). You can find it here in French