Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Château Margaux Bottle Closure Experiment

Screw Caps versus Corks

I’m interested in the debate of corks versus alternative closures. Synthetic corks I don’t like at all, but definitely appreciate the ease of screw caps. I was interested to read recently of a well-known estate that has opted to do their own experiment regarding this somewhat contentious issue. The director of Château Margaux, Paul Pontallier, trialled different ways to seal bottles of the famed Château’s wines over 10 years, recently revealing the results.
'In February this year, Paul Pontallier showed the results of a range of experiments at the Bordeaux property [Château Margaux] to the press for the first time in London. Among his trials, which concerned a range of winemaking and viticultural techniques, were a set of three reds from the 2003 vintage, and three white wines from the 2004 harvest, sealed under different closures – one natural cork and two screwcaps with different linings (Saratin and Saranex, the latter being more oxygen-permeable). Pontallier had also trialled wines under synthetic corks, but has decided not to show them, as the results were “catastrophic”. All the wines in the experiment were prepared in the same way.

The wines were made from vineyard parcels which would have been used for Pavillon Rouge and Blanc, and were served blind to a packed room of UK press. After each flight – one for red, and another for white – Pontallier asked for a show of hands to see which was the preferred wine.

For the red flight, a quick count of hands indicated the wine sealed under the Saratin-lined screwcap as the favourite, and Pontallier himself said that the wine aged under impermeable screwcap [Saratin-lined] was probably his preferred option: “Because I find the mouth softer.”

Interestingly with the white wines, the room voted for the first of the flight, which had been sealed using natural cork, and actually tasted the youngest and freshest, although it wasn’t markedly different from the third one, closed using a Saratin-lined screwcap. In both red and white flights, the wines under the more permeable Saranex screwcap showed elements of oxidation, and more forward, evolved aromatics than either the natural cork or less permeable screwcap.'
(Excerpt from an article that first appeared on The Drinks Business website)

I personally am a fan of screwcaps, due to their ease of opening and closing, and it is heartening to hear that the ageability of wine is not adversely affected by their use. I hope to see more of their use as time goes by. While cork will always have its proponents, these types of tests bolstering the use of screwcaps augurs well for the future.

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