Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CORK vs. SCREW CAP - a personal experience

There has been a lot written about Cork versus Screw Cap.  There are no definitive conclusions, and I’m not about to regurgitate the information that is available on the subject (mostly biased depending on which camp you're in).  This posting merely gives an account of a comparative tasting held here at Lynx Wines a couple of weeks ago.

Back in 2006, while we were bottling the 2005 vintage, we ran out of screw cap bottles for our Vino Tinto.  We quickly switched over to cork and continued bottling the last hundred, or so, bottles.  The result was that we had the ingredients for the perfect comparative Cork vs. Screw Cap tasting: bottles that came from the same tank, bottled on the same day within half an hour from another.  We kept some bottles back.

Early in August 2009 we opened a bottle of each.  On the panel were my wife Diana, Josephine (Sommelier at Reuben’s), Suzaan (Lynx Assistant Winemaker) and myself. 

The wines had evolved into two amazingly different wines:

Screw Cap:  This wine was vibrant and had retained all of it’s freshness, and most noticeably its fruit.  The wine had definitely developed and was showing a lot more elegance than when it was bottled.   The tannins were more grippy than the bottle under cork, but were nevertheless smooth as one would expect from a 4 year old wine made in this style.  Overall an excellent wine.

Cork: This wine was showing considerably more age than its opponent.  The colour was paler but not necessarily any signs of oxidation.  The presence of oxygen was evident though on both nose and pallet. It had lost much of the upfront fruit.  The tannins were silky smooth.   The wine had evolved showing more age than one would expect from its 4 years.

Conclusion - We all preferred the wine under screw cap (view video for a few of the comments).  The bottle under screw cap will last another 3 to four years, whilst the one under cork should be drunk within the next 12 months.  It did 'prove' that air does get in through the cork closure.

Consideration - We keep our sulphur levels at a low level, particularly so with screw cap reds.  At bottling the Total SO2 was 63 and the Free SO2 was 27.  This could partly explain the age on the bottle under cork.

Showmanship - We usually ask people who come to the tasting room for their preference, and most people give the screw cap the thumbs up.  But on further interrogation many admit they do still like the showmanship of removing a cork (my answer to that on the video).

Myth – Many  visitors believe that there isn’t enough cork to satisfy world demand.  In fact  the contrary is true.  There are cork forests being pulled up in Spain as a result of the reduction in world consumption of cork.  This has led to certain species, like the resident Iberian Lynx, to become endangered (so I should be supporting cork!)

Comments welcome, but not from statisticians who will tell me that one bottle of each does not constitute a representative sample - I know that!