The effect of screw cap, barrel style, bottle format and cellaring conditions on wine were thrown into the spotlight this week during a UK visit by a team from André Lurton.
Florence Ducros shows the evolution contrast of white wines under screw cap
Under blind tasting conditions, guests were challenged to identify and comment on the impact of various aspects of the vinification and maturation processes, including wines matured above and below ground, as well as in bottle and double magnum formats.
By far the most striking difference emerged in the round dedicated to white wines bottled under cork and screw cap.
In both the 2006 and 2004 Pessac Léognan vintages tasted, the wines bottled under cork were considerably more golden in colour with a markedly richer, more expressive nose and flavour compared to the screw capped wines.
However, while personal preference was divided over the more muted, leaner and reductive character of the screw capped wines, they remained more consistent in the glass and faded less quickly than their counterparts bottled under cork.
Explaining that both Château La Louvière and Château de Rochemorin had seen 20% of their production bottled under screw cap since 2003, Lurton’s commercial manager Florence Ducros admitted: “We’re reconsidering to reduce that to 10% because we can sell the wines more easily in cork – most of our leftover bottles are screw cap.”
However, she stressed that this was a result of customer prejudice rather than quality, remarking: “There’s no problem with the ageing. If we could bottle all our white wines under screw cap then we would do that.”
During the demonstration of the impact from different barrel toasts, coopers and wood type, Vincent Cruège, Lurton’s public relations & deputy production director, explained that each property within the company’s Bordeaux portfolio used a different type of barrel.
“Cabernet style wines need elegant and strong oak”, he maintained. “Then there are others, like Rochemorin, where you have smokey flavours so you can use more American oak. You have to harmonise the oak with the style of the estate.”
However, Cruège revealed that a number of Bordeaux producers are using “more and more” acacia wood components in their barrels, although usually just in the barrel heads.
“If we use too much it can sometimes taste a bit ‘vulgar'”, he remarked, “but just one touch is good for the fruit.”
Emphasising the ongoing programme of experimentation at Lurton, from the five different coopers trialled in any one year to research collaborations with the University of Bordeaux, Cruège insisted that this region was no less innovative than the New World.
“We do a lot of new things but we never communicate it or capitalise – it’s stupid”, he concluded.