Screwcap triumphs in maturation test

27th March, 2015 by Gabriel Stone

A selection of top Australian wines matured under both screwcap and cork led to “ground breaking” results during a blind tasting at this week’s Vinitaly.

Tyson

Wine writer Tyson Stelzer presents the screwcap vs cork blind tasting event

Presented by Tyson Stelzer, joint winner of this year’s International Wine & Spirit Competition Communicator of the Year award, the event featured the following Australian reds: Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2004, Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2004 and 2005, Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2003 and Brokenwood Rayner Shiraz 2001.

An international panel of judges voted in favour of the expressions aged under screwcap, a particularly impactful result to occur on Italian soil, where this closure was until recently banned from use in many of the country’s most prestigious wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, and still remains controversial.

By contrast, many Australian winemakers have embraced screwcap for long enough to have built up evidence of how this closure performs for wines produced with a considerable period of bottle aging in mind.

“These wines have the potential to break down prejudices, as this tasting has demonstrated,” commented Stelzer. He also noted that overcoming the “misconception” that screwcaps are inferior formed part of a wider challenge for Australian of building a global following for its top wines.

Reacting to the result, Venice sommelier Annie Martin-Stefannato admitted: “we will have to change our mindset”. Meanwhile Panama wine expert Fabrizio Cezzi expressed his surprise at the outcome, saying: “I did not expect that they would age so well – even better than under cork, it really surprised me.”

Despite the findings of this event, the cork industry continues to fight its corner. In addition to extensive research to tackle TCA, or cork taint, companies such as Amorim have also investigated the beneficial influences brought to a wine by the phenolic compounds that are naturally present in cork stoppers.

Meanwhile synthetic closure specialist Nomacorc has now launched a stopper derived partly from plant-based polymers rather than oil, as well as offering its Select Series product in a variety of Oxygen Transmission Rates to suit different styles of wine.

3 Responses to “Screwcap triumphs in maturation test”

  1. It’s about time that those who have been wearing cork blindfolds can now see the light. The California wineries that were flying high (as in airline winesets) in the 70’s and 80’s have know about the secret that’s now being recognized by the world wine “EXPERTS” Bravo!

  2. Dr. Carl Semencic says:

    Annie Martin-Stefannato is certainly right. Especially those of us who have been involved with fine wines both professionally and avocationally for decades, in my case four, have some dramatic mindset adjusting to do. I don’t know whether this mindset change will be more difficult for newcomers to better wines or for those of us who are set in the traditional mindset but my guess is it will be much more difficult for us “old-timers”. I wish I had been there to taste these wines so as to be able to convince myself that wines mature the same, if not better, in an anaerobic environment. (Somebody invite me next time!)

    I notice the above wines are all reds. I recall a tasting of a 40 year old bottle of Australian Riesling that was held a few years back and the result of that tasting was supposedly that the wine tasted fresh. My thought then was we really don’t want wines that have been aged to be “fresh”. We want them to mature. But this is different.

    By the way, you know who will scream if the industry stops using corks? Environmentalists who will claim it is the owners of the cork forests to continue to care for the trees as they have become a habitat for endangered European birds, etc. I would suggest that the responsibility change hands then and become the responsibility of those environmentalists.

  3. jim peck says:

    Ms. Stone neglected to investigate/state the most important technical aspect of reporting on “screwcaps”, namely the composition of the liner in the caps. It is the liner within the cap that actually seals the bottle, and barring any micro-leakage of air, it is the liner which controls the amount of oxygen entering the bottle and hence the rate of maturation. For years, two liners have dominated the cap business – Saranex which has a low rate of oxygen transmission and the tin-Saranex which allows in almost no oxygen. Recent innovations in liner technology by G3 and others now present winemakers with liners covering a wide range of oxygen transmission rates and thus giving winemakers the ability to base the selection of liner to the wine and desired shelf life. Questions about this comment can contact me jim.peck@g3enterprises.com

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