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What is the value of corking wine?

For many years, I was willing to go along with the notion that corked wines were better than screwtop wines. This seemed to be born out by the fact that screwtop wines were generally cheap wines of low quality and corked wines were more expensive and with higher quality.

Then "artificial corks" entered the fray and traditionalists warned that artificial corks did not allow a wine to "breathe," but traditional corks did., allowing a wine to age, while artificial corks did not. Frankly, I can't taste the difference between an artificially corked wine and a traditionaly corked wine. And, if you stay in the same price range, I can't tell the difference between a screwtop wine and a corked wine.

So, in your opinion, does corking a wine bottle with a traditional cork add anything to the flavor of the wine or its preservation?

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  1. You might research on the wine board the threads/posts on how a screwcap could change the flavor of the wine -- or used to -- because of reductive aromas. I have tasted flavor differences between identical bottles of wine, one bottled with a traditional cork, and one bottled with a Stelvin. But I don't know the current status on fixing the reductive problem, I'm sorry. Traditional corks "breathing" is a bit of a myth.

    2 Replies
    1. re: maria lorraine

      It is my understanding that the reduction problems with screw caps are largely related to winemaking oxygenation techniques and the amount of sulfur used especially at bottling. Not necessarily with the screwcaps themselves.

      1. re: jock

        I went to a closure seminar and reductive problems from screwcaps took up a lot of time. I'm sure you can dig up the info if you're interested.

    2. How much of your wine will be aged, beyond a year, or so?

      What are the wines that you age longer than that?

      While I do appreciate a cork closure, I have not had any problem with a Stelvin, or similar closure, on any of my wines, other than the lack of the cork - guess that I am a purist.

      To date, I have not had one "corked" bottle of wine, under Stelvin, or similar, while I average about 4 - 10% "corked," when under cork.

      Good luck,

      Hunt

        1. Thanks, guys and gal, for the education. After I finished looking up "Stelvin" and "reduction" I had a much better idea of what you were talking about.

          As I understand it, traditional corks sometimes contain a mold which imparts a "wet cardboard" taste to the wine. it permanently ruins the wine. Although estimates vary widely, some experts believe that 5% of traditionally corked wine suffers from this problem.

          On the other hand, screwcap (Stelvin capped) wines are too good in keeping out oxygen, which sometimes results in what wine aficionados refer to as "reduction." This ruins the wine. Reduction is the development of a sulfur-like compound in the wine, which, with traditional corks, is neutralized by the small amount of air which gets into the bottle. Although estimates vary widely, some experts estimate about 2.5% of all screwcapped bottles suffer from this problem.

          Apparently, some wines develop the reduction problem, even when corked (or something--the internet articles were not very clear about this), and the French neutralized this problem (either accidentally or on purpose) by running the wine through copper tubing which somehow neutralizes the problem.

          There is a third type of stopper I have encountered. These are regular cork-like stoppers, but are made out of a much more dense material, rather plastic in texture. A traditional foil covers the top of the bottle. I understand that these stoppers also suffer from the reduction problem.

          Last, I understand that reduction can be controlled by the type of plastic used on the threads of the screwtop, which can be manufactured to allow in more or less oxygen, as desired.

          Robert Lauriston's attached article sure seems to have more anecdotal evidence favoring screwtops as keeping the wine fresher and more natural. But what do I know? I'm a novice.

          1 Reply
          1. re: gfr1111

            My luck with screw caps has been excellent. All else being equal, I prefer them.

          2. >>> corked wines were better <<<

            "Corked" wines are NEVER any good, as the term "corked wine" means a wine that has been ruined by "cork taint" -- 2,4,6-trichloranisole (TCA, for short). Some corked wines will be affected by 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TCB).

            That aside, the use of a cork as a wine closure is not only a time-honored tradition, but became that way because it works! But so did standing in front of an automobile or aircraft and turning a hand crank to get the engine started . . .

            Real cork works for all wines, be they intended for near-term consumption or long-term cellaring . . . BUT they come with an inherent risk -- the risk of ruining the wine through cork taint, that is, of making them "corked."

            I've yet to find a synthetic closure (i.e.: a "fake" cork) that I like, that I think is any good. Indeed several have had serious problems and resulted in more ruined wines than when using real cork. Nomacorc comes closest, but I'd love to kill off synthetic cork-type closures once and for all times.

            Screw caps (Stelvin is but one brand) work fine for both wines meant for drinking near-term and for long-term aging, but suffer -- at least here in the U.S. -- from an image problem as most wine drinkers, especially those over a certain age, as cheap wines popular with "skid row bums" (think Thunderbird, Night Train Express, and "short dogs" of M/D/20-20 and cheap fortified wines) all had screw cap closures.

            But study after study have proven that screw caps work perfectly for long term cellaring . . . in other words, it's not the technology, it's the image in people's heads that is the largest problem.

            The oldest wine I've had under screw cap was 40+ years of age, and it was in fine condition . . . .

            2 Replies
            1. re: zin1953

              I've pulled a lot of synthetic corks in the past decade and I don't think any of them had a bad effect on the wine.

              Some were so hard that they ruined two or three fancy Rabbit screws.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Yes, Robert, your experience is often at odds to my own . . . That said, I've had several corkscrews ruined as well.

                / / / / /

                Excerpted from Wikipedia, with footnoted citations http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternat...

                "The closures debate, chiefly between supporters of screw caps and natural corks, has increased the awareness of post-bottling wine chemistry, and the concept of winemaking has grown to continue after the bottling process, because closures with different oxygen transmission rates may lead to wines that taste different when they reach consumers.[3

                ]

                "The cork-industry group APCOR cites a study showing a 0.7-1.2% taint rate. In a 2005 study of 2800 bottles tasted at the Wine Spectator blind-tasting facilities in Napa, California, 7% of the bottles were found to be tainted.[4]

                "Synthetic corks are made from plastic compounds designed to look and "pop" like natural cork, but without the risk of TCA contamination. Disadvantages of some wine synthetic corks include a risk of harmful air entering a bottle after only 18 months, as well as the difficulty in extracting them from the bottle and using the plastic cork to reseal the wine.[5] James Laube of Wine Spectator notes that some can also impart a slight chemical flavour to the wine.[4 (sic)]

                "Unlike natural corks, many wine synthetic corks are made from material that is not biodegradable but recyclable as either #4 or #7 (see resin identification code) in many communities. There are two main production techniques for synthetic wine closures: injection molding and extrusion (mono- and co-). Methods also exist which are claimed to combine the two techniques of injection and extrusion. A 2007 study by Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2 University showed that injection molded synthetic corks allowed the highest levels of oxygen permeation in when compared to natural cork and screw caps, offering the lowest protection against oxidation of the wine.[6] A new generation of injection molded synthetic closures have developed a system of nano-cells as to replicate the cellular structure of natural cork, thereby duplicating their permeability values.[7]

                "Synthetic wine bottle closures may allow for a controlled oxygen transfer rate which has an impact on the sensory characteristics.[8]"

                Footnotes:

                3. Goode, Jamie, Ph.D. Wines & Vines (August 2008). "Finding Closure".
                4 a b. Laube, James, Wine Spectator (March 31, 2006). Changing With the Times
                5. Robinson, Jancis, jancisrobinson.com (June 10, 2006). "Down with synthetic corks!".
                6. Kramer, Matt, Wine Spectator (October 31, 2007). Seeking Closure p. 36
                7. Sole 24 Ore (September 10, 2008)
                8. Impact of post-bottling oxygen exposure on the sensory characteristics and phenolic composition of Grenache rosé wines. J. Wirth, S. Caillé, J.M. Souquet, A. Samson, J.B. Dieval, S. Vidal, H. Fulcrand and V. Cheynier, Food Chemistry, 15 June 2012, Volume 132, Issue 4, Pages 1861–1871, 6th International Conference on Water in Food, doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2011.12.019

                / / / / /

                Frank Prial, writing in The New York Times (October 1994):

                "In August (1994), Wine Business Monthly, a trade publication, noted that some wineries have had leakage problems with some synthetic corks, particular one called Cellukork. Other winemakers said the artificial corks imparted a plastic taste to the wine."

                / / / / /

                And let's not even talk about Altecs!