Many experts favour Stelvin screwcaps as the choice of closure for wines. Natural corks do result in an unacceptable high percentage of corked wines. The chief source of cork taint is the presence of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) in the wine, which in many cases is transferred from the cork. Often the wine is completely spoiled; sometimes it leads to less obvious but still noticeable undesirable smells or tastes that do affect the wine. I have wondered for many years why this should be acceptable – is there any other product where such a high rate of spoilage is tolerable?
Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon fame tested synthetic closures for a couple of years in the late nineties and ended up “greatly comprising the quality and longevity of a few wines that were quite important to us – a real pity”. He has since moved to bottle his entire production with screwcaps and is delighted with the results.
Another strong supporter of Stelvin screwcaps is my good friend Dirk Wuertz, a winemaker from Rheinhessen in Germany, who has little doubt that this closure will be the future choice for winemakers to use.
Greek Master of Wine Konstantinos Lazarakis also stated recently that screwcaps “rule” as they keep freshness up and direct development down. One of the few Greek winemakers that do use Stelvin screwcaps is Georgos Skouras. His Viognier and Chardonnay wines age exceptionally well.
However, the vast majority of Greek wines use either natural cork or synthetic closures. I called Petros Markantonatas from the Gentilini winery, as his estate was one of the first ones in Greece to opt for synthetic closures 10 years back. The main reason that synthetic closures are being used is the perceived customer acceptance in Greece. It was relatively easy to move from natural cork to synthetic closure, but the Greek consumer still likes to open a bottle of wine “the traditional way”. Another factor is that the existing bottling lines cater easily for both natural cork and synthetic closures, whereas new equipment needs to be employed for screwcaps. At the same time, the Gentilini winery is actually planning to move towards screwcaps for the export markets. Personally I also observe that nearly all wines are drunk young in Greece, the concept of storing and ageing wines is a relative new one for the Greek consumer.
I would love to hear the opinions of winemakers and consumers alike on the issue of closures via the comment section as I feel that the topic is a very important one that deserves more attention.
Note: Randall Grahm’s observations are loosely quoted from his book “Been Doon So Long“, in addition he has voiced his opinions several times via twitter. When he speaks, I listen!
Update: Please also check out this article by @enobytes