Italy allows use of screwcap – with compromises

The Italian Ministry of Agriculture has amended its decree of July 1993 to allow some – but crucially not all – DOCG wines to be bottled under screwcap.

However, the amendment does not stretch to wines that include a sub-zone or the name of a vineyard on the label.

The change in the law comes after a lengthy debate that was started in October 2006 following the arrival of a letter from David Gleave MW, managing director of Liberty Wines, asking for a change in the law that only allowed cork to be used as a closure for DOCG wines.

The new decree was ratified on 13 August this year but in a statement Gleave said that it did not go far enough, calling it a “crass compromise”.

“As from early next year, we expect to start shipping a Soave Classico under screwcap. But here is the rub. We can ship both a Soave Classico and a Soave Superiore DOCG under screwcap, but not a Soave Classico Superiore DOCG.

“This latter wine needs to be sealed with cork. Such a crass compromise does little to promote the image of Italy as a quality- focussed and innovative wine producing country, especially when we currently import Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis Premier Cru, Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru and other such European wines sealed under screwcap.”

The statement continues that Liberty has been in touch with its producers to see which will be moving to the newly permitted closure but stressed that the announcement from the ministry is merely one less stumbling block in Italy’s bureaucratic system.

“The decree has removed the obstacle previously placed in the way of those producers who wanted to use screwcaps, but does underline the fact that local consorzi must instigate any change.

“Once a majority of members of any consorzio votes in favour of a change, the amended law (disciplinare) for that particular zone must be sent to Rome for approval.”

So far, he said, producers in Chianti, Gavi and Barolo & Barbaresco had applied to their consorzios to implement the change.


5 Responses to “Italy allows use of screwcap – with compromises”

  1. federica says:

    Why insist so much to allow screwcaps in the first place?
    The natural cork not only is a perfectly good way of sealing bottles, but it’s also the best solution for aging great wines. (Imagine a vintage Barolo in 20 years time with a screwcap??)
    As an Italian living in London i only buy bottles of wine with a cork (wherever they might be from). There is an element of craftsmanship, ritual and a romantic / old-school feel to corks, that screwcaps will never be able to replace.
    ILeave the screwcaps to new world wines?

    • Marcello Fabretti says:

      Well, Federica, so winemakers the world over have been moving to Stelvin closures en masse for 20 years now and I suppose they’ve done it based on absolutely no reason at all, right?…

      You say, “imagine a Barolo vintage Barolo in 20 years time with a screwcap”. Tell you what, if I had a bottle of Barolo that I’d carefully cellared for 20 years and opened it with as much flourish and ritual that you seem to admire, only to find that it’s corked or randomly oxidised, I’d be pretty pissed off. Now that would be fine if I were only paying peanuts for the wine and had multiple bottles to pick from and could return the spoiled wine to the original distributor. But Barolo ain’t cheap, Sunshine, and I don’t want to waste time and money on something that could spoil THROUGH NO FAULT OF MY OWN. So yeah, if I had a Barolo under screwcap I would breath a sigh of relief.

      Anyone who bemoans the loss of ritual in using a bottle opener to extract a piece of bark from a bottle is an idiot and shouldn’t even be allowed to comment on the issue. Stelvins make sense. I wouldn’t buy a bottle of milk or coke or OJ sealed with a piece of bark, so why should I accept it in wine?

      Cork causes more problems than it solves. And yeah, it’s awesome in so far as it’s environmentally sustainable and all that blah mcblah, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t do it’s job right. Fact. And expecting the consumer, retailers, distributors and winemakers to take the hit for an innately faulty closure because of sentimental and wishy-washy spiritual reasons, is ridiculous.

      So Fede’, the fact that you only stick to wines under cork is your own valid choice, but not one based in logic or quality based appreciation. Just ignorance, really.

    • Screw-caps are a much safer way of trying to eliminate TCA from wine. I love a cork, but I HATE a corked wine – until there are ways of ensuring that TCA can be removed from cork closures, screw-caps are surely the way forward. I would have no objection to opening a 20 year old Barolo with a screw-cap – rather that than open it after having waited 20 years to find it corked. As for leaving screw-caps to new world wines – what is that supposed to mean!? Implication that new world wines are inferior? Agree with David Gleave, this is positive, but does not go far enough.

  2. More screwcaos means less Cork Oak to be cut for our bottles. However, will the quality be compromised from this?

    • Nick says:

      Nowadays many wines don’t even use natural cork- they have moved towards synthetic corks (see normacorc). So the whole arguement about environmental sustainability goes out the window!

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