Closures: Part 1 ­– the world’s most high profile experiment?

A trial using first growth Bordeaux has shown how closure type affects a wine’s evolution over almost 10 years, and the results aren’t quite as expected.

To better understand what motivates winemakers to choose a cork, screwcap or synthetic closure we spoke to three highly-respected figures for the August edition of the drinks business (pages 32-37), each of whom have opted for something different.

Initially, however, we profiled one winemaker who has trialled different ways to seal his prized wines for almost 10 years in what must be the most high profile experiment in the history of the closure debate.

The results had been kept under wraps until an event earlier this year in London, where wines aged under the different closures were shown blind, and the drinks business, which was present, reported on the findings.

However, in time for August’s edition of db, which contained a focus on closures, we went back to the winemaker – Chateau Margaux’s Paul Pontallier – and asked him what he would do if screwcap proved better than cork for closing and ageing first growth Bordeaux.

An anlysis of the experiment and his views can be read here.

Over the next few days we will bring you opinions from further winemakers who are adamant that their closure choice is the best – whether it’s screwcap, cork or synthetic.

9 Responses to “Closures: Part 1 ­– the world’s most high profile experiment?”

  1. Mike says:

    It’s just too bad that both synthetic and screwcap closures have evolved so much over the last 10 years, making this experiment interesting, but not very useful. The data collected has little to no direct bearing on modern alternative closures. So yeah, interesting read, but not useful in making closure decisions.

  2. Chris says:

    Mike, There may have been changes to the synthetic corks, but the screwcaps that were used by Chateau Margaux (with Sarantin and Saranex liner) are still the primary liner options and are still available on the market.

  3. David Wollan says:

    It seems extraordinary to me that the closure matter is still controversial. Screwcaps have been a successful closure for decades. As wine science students in the late 1970s, we made wine at what is now Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga Australia. The 1978 vintage were mainly white wines of their era, produced fairly anaerobically and were bottled using Stelvin closures. Some were sealed with natural cork. Occasionally over the decades since then, I would try one of these bottles. All the wines under cork had completely faded over 20 years ago. Those under screwcap were certainly developed but still drinkable after 30 years.
    As a winemaker, consultant and technologist over many years, my experience with the variability of cork has been bitter. It is not just TCA but the unpredictability of the sealing performance of cork that has convinced me that its time has passed.
    People should understand and accept that wine maturation has 2 distinct stages: the oxidative in the winery when the winemaker allows the tannin and other characters to develop and resolve; and the reductive in bottle where different, slower reactions take place. Oxygen ingress into the bottle is hard to control and has little positive to offer. The results for the permeable liners, are thus not surprising.

  4. Yo he degustado los vinos del Chateau Margaux. A ver, mis favoritos del Chateau, claro esta por calidad-dinero,
    mi favorito es el Pavillon Blanc, siempre embotellado en bordelesa y tapon corcho natural. Luego el Pavillon rouge
    este, realmente no he podido apreciarlo tanto. Esto asi, pues siempre me ha parecido un St. Emilion por su bouquet,
    aunque no muy pronunciado en el Pavillon.
    No quiero comentar sobre el Chateau Margaux, ya ese es otra cosa …Oh, la,la, para eso hay que tener muchas
    experiencias en ese caldo excepcionalmente “excelente”.

  5. Andrew Gunn, Iona says:

    A positive outcome in my opinion, indicating that Saratin and a good cork both perform well. We are also surprised that cork closures in whites are often preferred and retain freshness. Very much a perception and up to the consumer, but venture to say we won’t see screwcaps on 1st growths or Grand Crus, this would take a brave winemaker indeed!

  6. Sean Williams says:

    Good info — I used cork as a determinant in a report on “The Quality of Wine” for a college geography assignment. The 2 & 7/8ths inch Bordeaux corks were impressive when presented by the sommelier. Keep me posted.

  7. Beatrix says:

    I prefer to buy wine red and white with cork, I hate it if I have to open a bottle with a screw cap! It’s just not the same! It’s like opening brandy not wine!
    The wine taste even better with the cork! We use to drink a glass of the same red wine every day that use to be cork and since it is change to a screw cap it don’t taste the same anymore and it taste if there is a sharp taste in the wine. I don’t even buy that wine anymore!

  8. MJ says:

    This is a very interesting experiment indeed. May I ask why you did not also use Diam in the trial?

  9. Grant Ramage says:

    I’m interested to know whether any of the wines for the comparative tasting were found to be TCA-affected and, if so, were they served or replaced with ‘clean’ samples?

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