Some subjects are more interesting than others, depending upon your point of view and the overall fondness for the subject matter. I know one thing, this is akin to the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s when taking this subject on. No one is on the fence.
Enclosures, sounds pretty dry so far but it’s the hottest subject out there. And nothing gets your blood boiling more than a failed stopper of a great bottle of wine.
Why don’t we start by putting the alternatives on the table? There is Higher Grade Cork, Synthetic Cork, Particle Cork, Screw Caps. Now we all know what real cork can do to the aging process of a bottle of wine. The enclosure has been around for centuries and has proven to be a great way of allowing your wine to age gracefully. It allows tiny amounts of air or micro oxidation to seep into the wine without spoilage. This allows the wine to age and become something special, if built to go the distance, so to speak. So, debating whether a cork works or not is futile since we have so much data in favor. The only question confronting a cork is TCA, or it’s real name 2,4,6 Trichloranisole. This little bugger in very small, pure amounts can ruin an entire production of wine let alone a single bottle. It is found in tree bark such as that used from the cork tree then treated with Chlorine. But not just there, it’s also found in many wood products treated the same way, such as Barrels and Palates commonly found in wineries where cleaners are used to keep things sanitary. In fact, it’s equally true that your corked wine might not have originated from the cork. It could have been from the palate that carried it to its final resting point. This taint normally shows itself in a musty, wet cardboard smell and completely consumes the wine. And the smell will not blow off with air, in fact it will grow with alarming speed. So, imagine a great bottle of wine stored 10, 50, 100 years and now you open it only to find it tainted, ruined long ago.
Dealing with the alternatives is simple because we don’t have a lot of data. Sure, twist offs have been around a while but not until recently have they been used in what one can consider premium wines. Before they were only used in very inexpensive wines so there is little data to support the theory they will age gracefully. Since the closure is pretty much air tight, the wine cannot use oxygen to its advantage. Also there is another problem that could raise its ugly head, that of reduction. This chemical reaction from the lack of air smells like burnt rubber and it is unclear whether it will show itself in years down the road. All the other stoppers fall into this same category. So let me say this before I go on. I am not playing scientist, and I’m not passing judgment. I’m just dealing in facts, those dirty little things that rear their heads up at inopportune times. We don’t have enough info on alternative enclosures so making wild predictions would be just that. I will however tell you that no one has had more spoiled wines than me from TCA and my meter is far into the tens of thousands of dollars. So you would think I’d be the biggest advocate for alternatives. But I’m not!
Let me go even further into my stories of road side bombs blowing up in one’s face. My daughter met my now son in law in 1993. They got married in 2003 and I decided to open a six liter bottle of 1993 Echezeaux DRC, that’s the equivalent of eight bottles!
Yes, you guessed right, corked! What a disaster and if not for the inability of the wedding party to know the difference it would have been dumped. I have many such stories, some as tragic. But I won’t change. Must like the pain or is it something else making me obstinate? This man, who has been treated by corks as badly as anyone, still sings their praise. Why? Because wine is more than a beverage; it’s part of life, it’s passion, romance, celebration, and remembrance all rolled into one. I could never conceive of all of that from a screw cap. Instead of a pop when the cork is released, you hear something that sounds more like a crackle. Now that’s alright for cereal but not for wine. It is true however when I do buy a case of wine that instead of the 9 liters paid for, I will receive 8.25 liters of good wine. Inevitably one bottle will be corked! That said you have me on record so fire at will!
If I had one wish for all it would be you never experience a corked wine again.
Snap, Crackle or Pop.