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Real Cork, Plastic Cork, Stel-Vin and Cap


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Last year I was performing a wine tasting at the New Zealand Embassy for a corporate group, and the organizer nearly passed out when I turned the screw cap of one of the wines...she thought I had gone to 7-11 and bought Boone's Farm or some other cheap stuff! I find it's really hard to tell consumers new to wine, that a cork is actually a bad thing, it may be ruining as much as 8% of all wines sold, but people are so enamored of the cork "mystique" that often they don't even want to hear this fact...the industry has created a "snob" factor that Americans seem to think is wrong but portray at the same time...for many, wine is instant pedigree, you become sophisticated and erudite just by swirling the mystical fermented grape juice in your glass, instant class so to speak...

But anyone who tries to spell palate as palette is way too snobby for me, just give up on them!

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that a cork is actually a bad thing

Corks do infect wine with corkiness, but I have always felt the 8% number is just too high. A wine is not corky just because it has any detectable amount of the offending compound just like a wine is not spoiled by bret if it has any detectable amount of that bacteria in it. Some small amounts of a compound, while possibly detectable to a trained nose will just actually be a component of complexity. In my experience, corkiness runs at about 3% or so of bottles. We go thru a lot of wine and taste a lot of wine and I have never had a run of 8% corkiness. Is there bottle variation? Yes. But it is not all corkiness.

With a screw cap, the failure rate of these closures is much higher for wines aged over 2 years. So it is not a perfect closure. It is fine for wines that need little time in the bottle, probably the best. But if youage wines for a bit, beware! I would not buy a case of Plumpjack with the screw top and try to age it in my cellar for 10 years (of course at the price and quality, I would never buy a bottle much less a case of Plumpjack!).

Plastic corks seem to be OK for red wines over a 3-5 year horizon, but cause premature aging in many whites.

So you pay your money and you take your chances. It just ain't coke where every bottle tastes like every other bottle.

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With a screw cap, the failure rate of these closures is much higher for wines aged over 2 years.
Never heard this before Dean, and I'm still weighing the pros and cons of screwtops, but I did recently read an article that screwtops have virtually a 0% failure rate, so I'm curious to know how that could happen? Concerning the aging of wines, the current "wisdom" (meaning it's probably wrong!) is that the aging of wines is more related to the air already in the bottle (ullage) and not the air that a natural or synthetic cork allows in...again, nobody is sure, and time will tell...

Personally, I prefer screwtops for all my wines because of the reasons noted above as well as the unhappy loss of wine to 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (cork taint) which is probably closer to 3%, I was just using 8% as an outside figure! You're correct that a little bacteria/2,4,6 isn't going to ruin a wine for everyone (some people LOVE Brett, I personally enjoy it, it gives wine some "funk"!). :lol:

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I'm unsure if you need to be a subscriber to Wine Spectator or not to access older articles. Nonetheless, WS featured "the great cork debate" in its March 31, 2005 issue.

According to one of the WS articles in this issue, the culprit is the chemical trichloroanisole (TCA) which can taint cork. "At low levels, the chemical, one of the most powerful odorants in nature, mutes a wine’s fruit flavors; in higher concentrations, it imparts offensive mustiness. Depending on the taster, TCA can detract from wine quality at concentrations as low as 1 part per trillion."

WS says estimates "vary widely." Between 1 and 15 percent of corks are tainted with TCA, according to WS.

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the culprit is the chemical trichloroanisole (TCA)
That's what I said (chatted?) 2,4,6-trichloroanisole - that's what you said, you just didn't include the 2,4,6, no Biggie! But the 1 to 15% is a bit...broad? Let's just say between 3% and 8% for future discussions, but it "should" be 0% for screwtops - the reason it might be 1% or 2% for screwtop is that they've found TCA in the cellars of some wineries, so it could potentially get into the wine...in small amounts, few people except wine pros can detect TCA, so it's acceptable, I wouldn't even send it back in a restaurant if it was negligible, but when you get the wet mildewed sock aroma, yeoowww, send it back!

BTW, something like 1/10% of all wines ever get sent back in a restaurant, even though the estimate is 3-8% of bottles have TCA, so basically people are suffering through tainted wine and they just think there's something wrong with themselves!

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I'm unsure if you need to be a subscriber to Wine Spectator or not to access older articles. Nonetheless, WS featured "the great cork debate" in its March 31, 2005 issue.

According to one of the WS articles in this issue, the culprit is the chemical trichloroanisole (TCA) which can taint cork. "At low levels, the chemical, one of the most powerful odorants in nature, mutes a wine’s fruit flavors; in higher concentrations, it imparts offensive mustiness. Depending on the taster, TCA can detract from wine quality at concentrations as low as 1 part per trillion."

WS says estimates "vary widely." Between 1 and 15 percent of corks are tainted with TCA, according to WS.

liam,

The part of this post that I want to correct is the part about TCA detracting from wine....... Sensitive tasters can detect several parts per billion, not trillion. One part per million is still undetectable to the vast majority of tasters.

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That's what I said (chatted?) 2,4,6-trichloroanisole - that's what you said, you just didn't include the 2,4,6, no Biggie!  But the 1 to 15% is a bit...broad?  Let's just say between 3% and 8% for future discussions, but it "should" be 0% for screwtops - the reason it might be 1% or 2% for screwtop is that they've found TCA in the cellars of some wineries, so it could potentially get into the wine...in small amounts, few people except wine pros can detect TCA, so it's acceptable, I wouldn't even send it back in a restaurant if it was negligible, but when you get the wet mildewed sock aroma, yeoowww, send it back!

BTW, something like 1/10% of all wines ever get sent back in a restaurant, even though the estimate is 3-8% of bottles have TCA, so basically people are suffering through tainted wine and they just think there's something wrong with themselves!

Cheap wine, Cheap corks. Wines with corks represent a small fraction of the wine made in the world.

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Randall Grahm, owner and president-for-life of Bonny Doon Vineyards put it best (though I'm paraphrasing a bit):

"We spend thousands of dollars in our vineyards using 21st century technology in our vinification, thousands in our winery, using the most modern equpiment, we use 21st century everything, and then we seal it all up with 14th century technology?"

Bonny Doon Vineyards is in the U.S. vanguard of Stel-Vin closures, and their site has great discussions of this.

The Australians and New Zealand wineries are also pioneers in this area.

The simple fact of the matter is, the cork is an imperfect closure and far too much wine is ruined because of it. Wineries wind up eating the cost of this from wholesaler refunds and in a larger sense they can lose out because many people don't understand the concept of "cork taint", they simply taste the ruined wine and decide that it's just lousy wine, so they'r enever buying that brand again, and the winery has lost countless future customers due to that decision.

The great majority of wine sold in the world is consumed within the first two years, if not the FIRST year after purchase, so the Stel-Vin closure makes all the sense in the world.

As a consumer, I'm interested about what's IN the bottle, first and foremost. I hope that consumers can acclimate to this more quickly.

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Speaking of alternative closures, have you seen the Vino-Lok? It's basically a glass stopper with a small clear o-ring seal that looks to be made of silicone.

I just ran across one for the first time tonight on a bottle of 2004 Zweigelt from Gernot Heinrich in Austria. I had to google to figure out what it was even called. Seems to have worked just fine for the short time this wine was in the bottle. I suppose drying or cracking of the O-ring would be the failure mode, but I wonder how long it's built to last before that happens.

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The following press release comes to me courtesy of Claude Kolm of the excellent Fine Wine Review. Noted without comment:

For Immediate Release: Contact : XXXXXXX

March 27, 2006 XXXXX

“PUT A CORK IN IT” SAYS NEW SPANISH LAW

Spain’s top wine producers outlaw alternative closures in 11 Spanish regions

NAPA, Calif. – A new Spanish law governing wine closures in some of Spain’s top wine producing regions insists that only cork can be used as a closure for still and sparkling wines in order for it to gain (Denominación de Origen) D.O. status. It outlaws the use of alternative wine closures such as screw caps and synthetic closures, in 11 of Spain’s top wine producing regions. The Catalan Minister of Agriculture and INCAVI, the Catalan Institute of vines and wines introduced the new law at the end of 2005, modifying its existing rules governing viticulture and oenology set down in 2002.

The D.O. is the standard classification for quality wine in Spain, akin to the U.S. American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) Italy’s Denominazione di Origine Controllata (D.O.C.) and France’s Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AC). The law affects wines made in the 11 Catalan D.O.s including Catalunya, Costers del Segre, Montsant, Pla de Bages, Tarragona, Alella, Conca de Barberà, Empordà, Penedès, Terra Alta and Priorat. Grape growers in these regions were the first to make distinctively international-style wines. The Priorat region in particular, is considered the new star of Spanish wine, with its red wines developing a cult following, especially among wine lovers abroad. Penedes is the region best known for producing the bulk of Spain’s traditional-method sparkling wine, Cava. The new law deems all Cava must be bottled with cork, as well as all red and white wines from these 11 regions.

“This Spanish law is yet another endorsement for the cork closure,” says Elisa Pedro, Director of Communication & International Relations for APCOR, the consortium of Portuguese cork producers. “Spanish law makers and wine producers are responding to what wine drinkers the world over have been telling us for a long time – cork is a sign of quality for wine.”

APCOR recently launched its International Campaign for Cork, a $US 3 million campaign to promote the use of cork as wine closures. A recent market study of the United States’ wine trade, carried out as part of this campaign, found that nine out of ten consumers think that non-cork closures sometimes or often cheapen a bottle of wine. These findings confirm earlier consumer surveys:

A 2005 closure survey by the Wine Spectator showed 81% of those questioned in an internet survey preferred cork closures compared to 18% who preferred screw caps.

In 2004, Wine Intelligence, a leading international wine industry consultancy, conducted a major survey of American consumer attitudes to two types of seal, cork stoppers and aluminum capsules (screw caps). Two thirds of the respondents thought it was positive to buy wine with a cork stopper, 52% rejected aluminum capsules and only 1% said they did not like to drink wine sealed with a cork.

APCOR is a consortium of more than 280 cork companies, representing approximately 80% of the Portuguese cork business volume and 85% of all cork exports from Portugal. APCOR stands for "Associação Portuguesa da Cortiça" - Portuguese Cork Association. It was founded in 1956 and is based in Santa Maria de Lamas, near Porto in Portugal. Its mission is to represent and promote natural cork and all products made of cork. Companies involved in the production, commerce and export of cork-based products are members of this association.

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Back in March of this year, I encouraged the folks at Bonny Doon Vineyard to put this video they had produced up on YouTube to help facilitate dispersement of its helpful message. It had been on their old website, but was difficult to find (if it is on there at all) on their new flash-intensive site. I hope that everyone finds it amusing as well as informative.

Vive Le Screwcap!

A couple of interesting points about the Stel-Vin closure, which I know have been discussed on this board before, but they bear repeating: According to Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm, one benefit of the Stel-Vin closure ("screwcap") is that wine ages at a glacial pace compared to cork-enclosed wine. It isn't so much what doesn't get INTO the bottles (i.e. oxygen) but what doesn't get OUT (i.e. gases which are produced over time. Jake knows the science behind this better than I do, perhaps he can enlighten the discussion) One result is that the wine isn't oxidizing under such a closure. So besides the absence of such enjoyment-killers as TCA ("cork-taint") there is that to consider, plus the fact that you can take bottles anywhere and not have to worry about having a corkscrew, which anyone who flies commercial carriers can attest to, it's no fun leaving those with the TSA.

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What is the argument in favor of cork? Is it anything more than an appeal to nostalgia and prestige?

(If the pro-cork lobby is explained in the video, sorry. I can't view Youtube clips at this galdurned work computer.)

I can't answer that in general, but for me personally there is an aesthetic, tactile, even romantic appeal to cork. Cork figures in the literature and lore of wine almost as much as wine itself, and for anyone who enjoys wine, I think cork would be hard to part with for that reason alone. I also enjoy the modest ritual of uncorking a wine, be it by a sommelier or myself.

But I've also had to endure a good deal of corked wine (especially within the last few years for some reason), so I sometimes shock people who know my normally incorrigible snobbery by making an argument for the screw-cap.

ETA: Joe, that video is great!

The ideal solution, it seems to me, is the synthetic cork. It preserves a good deal of the tactile (and auditory) sensations of real cork but eliminates the pitfalls of corkiness.

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I can't answer that in general, but for me personally there is an aesthetic, tactile, even romantic appeal to cork. Cork figures in the literature and lore of wine almost as much as wine itself, and for anyone who enjoys wine, I think cork would be hard to part with for that reason alone. I also enjoy the modest ritual of uncorking a wine, be it by a sommelier or myself.

But I've also had to endure a good deal of corked wine (especially within the last few years for some reason), so I sometimes shock people who know my normally incorrigible snobbery by making an argument for the screw-cap.

ETA: Joe, that video is great!

The ideal solution, it seems to me, is the synthetic cork. It preserves a good deal of the tactile (and auditory) sensations of real cork but eliminates the pitfalls of corkiness.

I have embraced the Stel-Vin closure whole heartedly. We are even trying to devise a new ritual tableside. Part of it involves a little hokey-pokey like dance.

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Synthetic cork is the worst of all possible worlds--most implementations don't hold seal longer than 2-3 years, and many of them are hard to extract.

Cork figures in the literature and lore of wine almost as much as wine itself
I'm sorry, Banco, but this is just not true. Because if it was, there'd be a lot of literature about corked wine.
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Synthetic cork is the worst of all possible worlds--most implementations don't hold seal longer than 2-3 years, and many of them are hard to extract.

I didn't know that, but I have no great objection to screw caps anyway. So be it.

I'm sorry, Banco, but this is just not true. Because if it was, there'd be a lot of literature about corked wine.

I admit I was exaggerating a bit. But your logic is akin to saying there's no sex in literature because there's not much mention of syphilis. Perhaps art is a better example of what I was trying to convey: There are plenty of Flemish still-lifes with lovingly rendered corks, along with the infinite variety of finely crafted implements that have been used to extract them over the past few hundred years. The admitted improvement of the screw cap does away with that particular sensual aspect of enjoying wine--as long as it isn't corked, of course.

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Vive le boxed wine! ;)

stelvin, or glass, or soon to be other?

i dont mind stelving for early drinking, but dont yet trust it for age,, bumping during shipping can crack the seal nd from there you are screwed if you keep teh wine for more, well in this case a day, but more not knowling, a decade, and bang,, oxidized.

the glass is nice, real elegant, but a little costly, but for now,, does the trick..

gues we have to think ahead since we are over cropping everything in sight. they should sell cork trees at the whole food s instead of tomato plants

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Now I hear that forests of quercus suber, cork oak might be endangered if too many wine drinkers turn to alternative

closures. Maintaining the cork trees is a difficult and time consuming process. Lose the trees, and lose habitat for endangered

species. So if I buy cheap wine with a nasty plastic cork, I'm endangering the Iberian Lynx. Just what I need ... more stress.

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That's BS and they know it. There's so much more wine being bottled these days than ever before, it's ridiculous. And they aren't going after tetrapak, which is the real answer here for most wines and a much bigger "threat." This is the cork wankers spending their money and skint environmentalists taking it from whomever is willing to give it.

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I lost all faith in the screw cap the other day, when I went to open a bottle of wine with said cap, and the entire metal sleeve came off with the cap, instead of separating from the cap and staying in place. Anyone could have opened this bottle and then replaced the cap, without me knowing about it until it was too late. And those synthetic corks tend to be rather tough and difficult to open, if your corkscrew is a bit dull.

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I don't call them synthetic corks, I call them what they are: plugs. :angry:

Agreed. I can't stand synthetic corks- they always sink into the bottle! And I have opened (far too) many bottles of wine for this to be blamed on lack of technique.

Screwtops on the other hand- love 'em. All about the easy access B)

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http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews...true&rpc=92

Plastic, not axes, threatens cork forests

Sun Aug 5, 2007 7:18PM EDT

By Robin Pomeroy

TEMPIO PAUSANIA, Sardinia (Reuters) - If you buy a bottle of wine with a metal screw-top or a plastic cork, you won't just be thumbing your nose at tradition. You may also be dooming the world's cork forests.

That is the view of environmentalists and cork producers who have joined forces to protect cork oaks -- and the unique habitat they provide -- from competition in the wine trade.

Alternative 'corks' are ever more common, as synthetic and aluminum wine closures have grabbed a 20 percent share of the market, up from just 2 percent in 2000, according to wine industry consultant Stephane Rein of Rein Consulting. She says that could increase to 35 percent by the end of the decade.

"Silicone corks are not a problem for quality wines, they'll always use cork," said Battista Giannottu, an agronomist who works with a consortium representing Sardinia's cork producers.

"But the mass market, which is 80 percent of the total, might (use synthetic corks). That's not just an economic problem but an environmental one."

The quercus suber, or cork oak, which grows on both the European and African sides of the Mediterranean, provides the raw material for practically all the 20 billion wine corks used every year.

The way cork is harvested -- shaved off the sides of trees like the way a sheep is shorn -- means forests continue to thrive as they give up their valuable bark.

In Sardinia, the only region in Italy that produces cork, the forests are a haven for wild boar, a species of hawk native to the island and Sardinian deer.

The highly endangered Iberian lynx roams the cork forests of Spain and Portugal, the global leader in cork production; in North Africa the forests provide a habitat for Barbary deer.

EXPERTS

"Only experts can tell when it's ready," said Saverio Bacio, overseeing the harvest at a Sardinian government-owned forest.

His woodsmen work quickly, hacking at the bark before the summer heat causes the sap to glue it to the trees' sensitive inner core which, if left intact, will produce another thick layer of cork.

"You can tell if the weather, the temperature, is right for the bark to come away without bringing part of the core with it. It varies day by day, hour by hour."

A cork oak must be at least 30 years old before the first harvest and, even then, the gnarled, porous 'virgin cork' is not good enough to make wine closures. It will take another 10 years for the bark to grow back and be good enough to make corks.

That means a poor rate of return compared with other trees which might be planted in such areas, such as the fast-growing eucalyptus which competes with cork oaks for land.

"It isn't a tree which gives a lot of one thing -- it gives a little of a lot of things," said Nora Berrahmouni of WWF, an environmental group working to protect cork forest habitats.

The undergrowth is a patchwork of fragrant shrubs, including ones that produce the myrtle, a berry gathered to make Sardinia's liqueur Mirto -- an extra source of forest income.

LIKE A PIG

At the Molinas factory in Calangianus, a town that has thrived on the cork business, piles of harvested bark mature in the yard for the necessary year which allows its pores to close.

After that it is boiled in vats to make it more elastic and squeezed flat by giant steel presses. Once checked for the absence of fungus, it is cut into the shape of closures.

The natural terracotta color of the cork is bleached to a 'cleaner' off-white demanded by most wineries.

"We say cork is like a pig, nothing is thrown away," said Michele Addis, quality control manager, straining his voice above the rumble of machinery.

More than 80 percent of the world's cork production is used for bottle closures. The rest is used for building materials and in items like fishing tackle and badminton shuttlecocks.

The best quality cork -- which is the least porous and has no cracks or flaws -- makes the best grade of stopper sold at a premium for wines made to be matured in the bottle.

Lower grades are used for cheaper wines: cork granules are agglomerated with a type of glue to make the dense champagne corks that must withstand the pressure of sparkling wine. Offcuts are glued to plastic discs to make the type of stoppers found in some sherry bottles.

As well as being cheaper alternatives, plastic and metal do not pose the same risk of "corking" the wine -- when a chemical called TCA is present in the stopper and gives the wine a "moldy" odor.

But cork producers and environmentalists are fighting back. Aiming to cash in on the demand for 'green' products, they have started to produce corks certified 'environmentally friendly' under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme, an 'eco-label' system already widespread for timber products.

Backers of the FSC scheme hope 'green' wine buyers will prefer a bottle with the FSC label. Cork makers hope it can guarantee their future by differentiating their traditional product from the upstarts.

"This could be a niche," said agronomist Giannottu. "Plastic and aluminum closures cannot compete against it."

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Nice Post Joe..great info. I personally wake up each morning hoping wine makers have come to the realization that it's 2007 and Screwcaps are the way to go. Technology folks..time to move forward and embrace new ideas. For some, they will never be able to live without actually fighting to get that crappy, deteriating cork off the bottle...but then they get the added benefit of picking those dear little pieces of cork from the wine..which might have turned south as well.

I love wine as well as the next..it's my job, but most wine produced today is meant to be drunk now..not in 5-10-15 years. I have over 200 wines in my cellar and yes, I am looking forward to trying those special aged wines as well, but most of us are consuming what we have now. The screw cap is the better choice. Others will say there is not enough studies to conclude that screw caps are any more effective than cork..Well there are. The screw cap is much more effective and simple than cork. Yes wines either screw or cork still can turn..sad fact of life with a living organism, but true. However, there is less chance of Corked wines with screwcaps.

The most prized bottlings of France..etc.will probably never switch primarily due to Tradition and Heritage, Corked has worked for hundreds of years..but as all things, time makes way for better ideas.

I would much rather spend 3 seconds opening a wine for my guest than 2 minutes fighting a crappy, shredded cork in their Brunello bottle. Pomp and circumstance aside, let the food and drink show through, rather than the battles of foil and cork.

Tree huggers be damned, but I will actually join these enviro-hippies in their pursuit to stop the cork farms. I'll gladly drive them to the rallys in my Escalade. :angry:

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I would much rather spend 3 seconds opening a wine for my guest than 2 minutes fighting a crappy, shredded cork in their Brunello bottle. Pomp and circumstance aside, let the food and drink show through, rather than the battles of foil and cork.
Are there special tools for opening screwcaps? I'm reminded of a time we went to 1789 for dinner and the waitress wasn't strong enough to open the screwcap on the bottle. (I'll mention the restaurant since it was probably close to two years ago. I don't think I've posted this before.) I had ordered, I think, a glass of Shiraz, and she brought the sealed bottle out to show it before opening. Then she couldn't open it. I have no doubt that she could have removed a cork proficiently, but this was a matter of physical strength.

She seemed unsure what to do and said something about going back to find someone who could open the bottle. My husband then offered to open it, which he did with no problem. Then she seemed a bit flustered, as if she had breached protocol. What is protocol for this? (We weren't bothered by it. It was a fluke of a situation, but I started to think she was embarrassed and I felt bad for that.)

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Are there special tools for opening screwcaps?

They have jar openers that could help here. It's some sticky sort of thing to help you get a better grip of a jar lid and I am sure it'd work on a screw cap just as easily. I often get these sorts of things for free while attending trade shows, but I am sure you could buy something from any half decent kitchen shop.

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They have jar openers that could help here. It's some sticky sort of thing to help you get a better grip of a jar lid and I am sure it'd work on a screw cap just as easily. I often get these sorts of things for free while attending trade shows, but I am sure you could buy something from any half decent kitchen shop.

Twist the bottle, not the cap. (Same as with a champagne cork.)

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Twist the bottle, not the cap. (Same as with a champagne cork.)
Ah, thanks. I do have one of those sticky things for jars if necessary, but I haven't had trouble opening wine screwcaps at home. I haven't had many to open, though.

The other part of my question, which may have gotten lost since I didn't structure my last post very well, is what happens (or is supposed to happen) in a restaurant if the server can't get the screwcap unscrewed?

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I imagine the next step would be wrapping it in cloth and trying again. But a reluctant screwcap seems far less likely (and still easier to fix) than a cork breaking off in the neck.

Pat, do you recall if the problem was that the screwcap couldn't be twisted at all, or that it twisted but the tamper-evident performations were too hard to break apart? A knife or foilcutter will fix the latter problem handily.

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The other part of my question, which may have gotten lost since I didn't structure my last post very well, is what happens (or is supposed to happen) in a restaurant if the server can't get the screwcap unscrewed?
This happens (very) occasionally when there is poor quality control on bottles--if a bottle gauge is far enough in one direction, there can be issues. Sadly, sometimes the wine is oxidized when this happens.

Ergo, this should be treated the same as any other faulty bottle--i.e., returned as far up the supply chain as possible for replacement.

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I imagine the next step would be wrapping it in cloth and trying again. But a reluctant screwcap seems far less likely (and still easier to fix) than a cork breaking off in the neck.

Pat, do you recall if the problem was that the screwcap couldn't be twisted at all, or that it twisted but the tamper-evident performations were too hard to break apart? A knife or foilcutter will fix the latter problem handily.

Given the amount of time that has elapsed, I'm not sure, but I seem to recall that it did not budge at all.
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This happens (very) occasionally when there is poor quality control on bottles--if a bottle gauge is far enough in one direction, there can be issues. Sadly, sometimes the wine is oxidized when this happens.

Ergo, this should be treated the same as any other faulty bottle--i.e., returned as far up the supply chain as possible for replacement.

It did eventually open and the glass I had tasted fine to me, but it's interesting that the difficulty with the cap can be a sign of oxidizing.

This experience was odd and seemed as though it must be pretty uncommon.

Thanks for the replies.

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I love screwcaps, even if they are somewhat difficult to deal with at times. One thing that I am somewhat concerned about is the longevity of these closures and their affect on wine, particularly of wines that you want to age 5, 10, 15 years. Corks are not wonder-closures either, as we all know, but they are often a known quantity (say 5% of your aged wine will be corked).

What are other folks' thoughts on aging wine with screwcap closures?

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I love screwcaps, even if they are somewhat difficult to deal with at times. One thing that I am somewhat concerned about is the longevity of these closures and their affect on wine, particularly of wines that you want to age 5, 10, 15 years. Corks are not wonder-closures either, as we all know, but they are often a known quantity (say 5% of your aged wine will be corked).

What are other folks' thoughts on aging wine with screwcap closures?

The Aussies have been doing it for 30 years. As has Chateau Margaux (in house). The key point to remember is that wine aging is not oxidative--many people mistake oxidized wine, in which fruit characters are replaced with washed-out or nutty characters, with aged wine, in which tannins have polymerized, fruit has reduced but gotten more complex and intricate, and acid has integrated.

That said, screwcaps are not perfect. You can't bash around a bottle with a screwcap or the seal will break, and poor-quality bottles are an issue. As is temperature. And liners aren't perfect everywhere, so maybe store screwcapped bottles for long aging upright. But cork is a known, major flaw.

I can't wait for the results of aging trials for aseptic packaging. I hope they exist.

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I have recently had two Italian wines that have used a glass stopper that is lined with a soft plastic. I really like the concept, and unless there is an issue with it that I am not aware of, I would be happy to see more producers move to this alternative.

Edit to add a link to the Vino-Lok site.

Yes, I have been noticing these new stoppers becoming more and more prevelant lately. We have about 3 Italian wines that are going this route. It makes it a pleasure to open and is such a better alternative to CORK :blink: AH Evolution :P

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I opened a half-bottle of 2004 Berthet-Rayne Chateauneuf-du-Pape last night, and it was everything I could have possibly hoped for in the wine. Full of earth, roasted fruits, elegance, and breed, this wine could have only come from the Southern Rhone.

I was so taken by this wine that it was time for a second half-bottle, so I removed the capsule, and couldn't believe my eyes.

"The second one has an artificial cork," I said.

The first cork was traditional - very long, and in perfect condition. But here I was, staring at the whitish-looking top of an artificial cork.

With considerable effort, I wrested the stopper off the wine, poured it, and instantly recognized that it was different. First of all, it was much more purple, had noticeably bigger legs, and when I smelled it, there was nothing there but muted, primary fruit.

On the palate, it went downhill from there. This wine not only didn't seem like a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but it was pretty much unidentifiable as anything from the Rhone Valley. Needed to breathe, you say? Nope. After two hours, the wine faded from being a muted, primary, fruit-driven, generic-tasting wine, into something much less than that. It didn't "fall apart," but it fell into disaccord, and now fully twelve hours later, almost the entire bottle is still sitting out, to be poured down the sink when I get the chance.

These were both purchased at the same time, at the Whole Foods 40% off sale I posted about a couple weeks ago. Berthet-Rayne is imported by the excellent Vintage 59 Imports (owned by Roy Cloud) - I'd LOVE to hear Roy's take on this. Two different bottlings? Ran out of corks? What gives? Unless I'm missing some miniscule code on the label, the wines were indistinguishable by looking at the bottles.

Regardless, consider this one data point falling strongly, strongly on the side of corks. And I don't remember ever seeing anything like this before in my life.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Are you absolutely certain that the artificial cork is the cause responsible for the effect?

I am not a particular fan of artificial corks--they are a pain to remove and noxious Rabbit-killers. But I have had problems with bottle variation in the same case, all of the bottles finished with the same closures (cork, most likely, as my memory is not perfect--I am thinking about a couple of different Eric Solomon Spanish wines).

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Are you absolutely certain that the artificial cork is the cause responsible for the effect?

I am not a particular fan of artificial corks--they are a pain to remove and noxious Rabbit-killers. But I have had problems with bottle variation in the same case, all of the bottles finished with the same closures (cork, most likely, as my memory is not perfect--I am thinking about a couple of different Eric Solomon Spanish wines).

I'm not certain of anything; I'm merely reporting what I observed. For all I know, the "artificial cork batch" could be a completely different cuvee of the same wine (or bottled from a different barrel, etc. - not sure how they do it at Berthet-Rayne). But there's no doubt that the wines were hugely, night-and-day different, and the only observable variable in this (from my perspective) was the corks.

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I'm not certain of anything; I'm merely reporting what I observed. For all I know, the "artificial cork batch" could be a completely different cuvee of the same wine (or bottled from a different barrel, etc. - not sure how they do it at Berthet-Rayne). But there's no doubt that the wines were hugely, night-and-day different, and the only observable variable in this (from my perspective) was the corks.

Post cork ergo propter cork? My dad bought a case of 2003 Potensac a while ago and found marked variation among a couple bottles. I imagine that's all it is. It would be interesting to hear the importer comment.

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From Lew Bryson's blog:

Okay, kind of an odd post for me to return with after a week away from the blog (sorry about that, it's been a busy week, and I'm still a bit under the weather): there's news that a technology developed by NASA to remove contaminants from fruits and vegetables headed to the space station may also effectively remove TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) from wine corks. Best of all, the process doesn't just filter the TCA, which would leave the possibility of it slipping through, it chemically destroys it.

If you're not familiar with TCA or corked wine, it's a big deal that most folks in the wine industry don't like to talk about. TCA occurs in natural cork; it's a contaminant (I think it's mold-generated) that doesn't show up until the cork is put in a bottle; when the bottle is opened and the wine is poured, it's pretty much nasty and undrinkable. If you ask folks in the wine or cork biz, it affects 1-3% of bottles (which is actually a huge number: imagine if 1-3 out of every 100 bottles of beer you got were just shite? Oh, wait, that's how craft beer was back in the 1990s...); if you talk to wine critics and industry analysts, it's more like 5-10%. A big problem when you're talking about flushing a $20 purchase down the crapper, and it's been a major component behind the move to screwtops, synthetic corks, and box wines.

But all those other closures have issues, to varying extent, and the wine industry would mostly rather use cork. Now, maybe they can:

Airocide was originally developed in the 1990s to keep fruit and vegetables fresh on a space station. It has been proved in concept trials to remove 90-95% of TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), which causes cork taint in wine, from a sealed room within 24 hours. The process works by sucking air through a box containing a 'bed' of titanium dioxide catalyst. This is irradiated by UV bulbs, oxidising any organic contaminants.

Independent UK wine laboratory Corkwise performed the trials on behalf of Airocide. Airocide is already used in hospitals, research facilities and for food storage - but is relatively new to the wine industry. Potential uses exist throughout the supply chain, from wineries to warehouses. The cost ranges from £1,500 for small units, to upwards of £7,000 for large ones.

Will it work? Is it economical? Can't say. But getting rid of TCA would sure take some of the pucker out of buying big-ticket wine, at least for me. Because once you've been burned by corked wine, you don't open a bottle quite the same way. At least for me. Pretty interesting.

Hooray for NASA. :lol:

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