Screw top bottles

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martyn94
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Screw top bottles

Post by martyn94 » Sun 20 Mar 2016 18:45

My sister is the main wine drinker round here, though I sometimes assist with quality control. As such she is frustrated by the fact that full bottles often deteriorate before she has finished them, even apart from the ones that are tainted before you start. All the more so because she has recently come back from Australia, where all but the very, very grandest wines have been in screw top for quite a few years. This abolishes these quality and (within limits) keeping issues, makes them enormously easier to open and close, and must (I guess) be cheaper for the winemaker after a small initial investment.

Things improve, slowly: there was one decentish local red wine closed this way last year, and one white, and now there seems to be two reds. But it's a bit pathetic. I can understand the conservatism of French consumers. But at €5 euros or so a bottle, we are not talking about DRC or Pétrus. All it needs, as in Australia, is one big push.

I guess I'm only talking to one person here: I'd love to know why it hasn't happened, or if there is any good reason why it shouldn't.

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Post by Sus » Tue 22 Mar 2016 19:56

That can be a big question and gets quite emotional depending on who you speak to. My family has been producing wine for a while and all bottles have natural cork. The main argument for natural cork is the breathability but and this is a big but, the cork must be of good quality and there has definitely been a decline in cork quality. The artificial corks can have the same problems as natural cork with regards to the wine going off and I would want to know exactly what they are made off …

The argument for breathability is somewhat overhauled as screw tops can be made with some level of oxygen ingress, in fact, probably more predictable than natural cork but I am not sure whether this has been conclusively proven, maybe somebody else knows that?

I do think that natural cork still has its place for complex red wines and it is just great to see a skilled waiter open a corked bottle in a restaurant, unscrewing the bottle isn’t quite the same! But I get your point that it might not be necessary for the everyday table wine. I have to admit though that I can’t quite shake my perception that the wine is cheap; more surprised on how good it is rather than expect it to be so.

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Post by martyn94 » Wed 23 Mar 2016 11:51

Sus wrote:That can be a big question and gets quite emotional depending on who you speak to. My family has been producing wine for a while and all bottles have natural cork. The main argument for natural cork is the breathability but and this is a big but, the cork must be of good quality and there has definitely been a decline in cork quality. The artificial corks can have the same problems as natural cork with regards to the wine going off and I would want to know exactly what they are made off …

The argument for breathability is somewhat overhauled as screw tops can be made with some level of oxygen ingress, in fact, probably more predictable than natural cork but I am not sure whether this has been conclusively proven, maybe somebody else knows that?

I do think that natural cork still has its place for complex red wines and it is just great to see a skilled waiter open a corked bottle in a restaurant, unscrewing the bottle isn’t quite the same! But I get your point that it might not be necessary for the everyday table wine. I have to admit though that I can’t quite shake my perception that the wine is cheap; more surprised on how good it is rather than expect it to be so.
I think that the technical advantages are self-evident except for wines needing very extended aging, where the evidence, by way of comparative tasting, cannot yet be in. But what proportion of the market is that: one in a thousand bottles seems like an exaggeration to me.

But it is not, of course, primarily a technical question, at least initially, but one of habit, and perceptions of cheapness, as you say. I felt the same when I started going back to Australia (where the switch is complete, apart from Grange, which I would not buy even if I won the lotto); you quickly get used to it.

It will be slower here for obvious reasons. But I have noticed that Gërard Bertrand, for example, sells (perfectly decent) wines under screwtop in Paris that are sold under corks down here. I'm sure that you won't be using corks in ten years time: for the sake of my convenience, I wish you'd get on with it.

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Post by Santiago » Sat 02 Apr 2016 10:39

The technical advantages of screwcap are not that self-evident.

It is about the effect of oxygen on bottle ageing but that whole science isn't fully understood. Believe me, I've read dozens of industry reports about it.

A couple of quick points.

Corks don't necessarily allow the flow of air through them. The main source of oxygenation is the air in the cork itself. So the oxygentation isn't continuous, as it would be in a permeable screwcap.

There is a difference in the way that wines are made in Australia to France. Even great wines from Oz are not made with dry tannins that need time to soften and develop their bouquet. They are almost all made to be enjoyed younger. There is no equivalent of Madiran, Cahors, Gevrey-Chambertin or even Cote Rotie in Australia. They may plant the same grapes but they make the wines in a more easy-going style. All the red wines I make improve over a period of years in bottle, so I choose cork.

There are choices in corks. I use DIAM for most of my wines. It's company based in Ceret that makes a natural, technical cork guaranteed to be free of TCA (cork taint). I also use high-quality natural cork on the most ageworthy wines.

A lot of the TCA problems come from the use of cheap corks. DIAM fixes that problem.

I agree that screwcap would be more suitable for a large number of the most commercial wines in France but there is an image problem. Screwcap=cheap in many eyes.

Personally I don't see the difference between screwtop or cork when it comes to preserving open bottles. Just as easy to pop the cork back in.

Finally, if you are buying relatively cheap wines to drink without laying them down and you have a problem with them going off in open bottles, there is a perfect solution. The Bag-in-box. Wine will last a couple of weeks in the BIB. However, BIB has a bigger image problem than screwcap. People want to put a bottle on the table, even if the wine in it would be just as good out of a BIB.
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martyn94
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Post by martyn94 » Tue 05 Apr 2016 12:11

Santiago wrote:The technical advantages of screwcap are not that self-evident.

It is about the effect of oxygen on bottle ageing but that whole science isn't fully understood. Believe me, I've read dozens of industry reports about it.

A couple of quick points.

Corks don't necessarily allow the flow of air through them. The main source of oxygenation is the air in the cork itself. So the oxygentation isn't continuous, as it would be in a permeable screwcap.

There is a difference in the way that wines are made in Australia to France. Even great wines from Oz are not made with dry tannins that need time to soften and develop their bouquet. They are almost all made to be enjoyed younger. There is no equivalent of Madiran, Cahors, Gevrey-Chambertin or even Cote Rotie in Australia. They may plant the same grapes but they make the wines in a more easy-going style. All the red wines I make improve over a period of years in bottle, so I choose cork.

There are choices in corks. I use DIAM for most of my wines. It's company based in Ceret that makes a natural, technical cork guaranteed to be free of TCA (cork taint). I also use high-quality natural cork on the most ageworthy wines.

A lot of the TCA problems come from the use of cheap corks. DIAM fixes that problem.

I agree that screwcap would be more suitable for a large number of the most commercial wines in France but there is an image problem. Screwcap=cheap in many eyes.

Personally I don't see the difference between screwtop or cork when it comes to preserving open bottles. Just as easy to pop the cork back in.

Finally, if you are buying relatively cheap wines to drink without laying them down and you have a problem with them going off in open bottles, there is a perfect solution. The Bag-in-box. Wine will last a couple of weeks in the BIB. However, BIB has a bigger image problem than screwcap. People want to put a bottle on the table, even if the wine in it would be just as good out of a BIB.
I am sure that you can make sound wines under a cork seal if you spend the money and care to do so, and I will happily use a corkscrew on the next bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin I buy. But even taking all due account of your points, I suspect that the proportion of wines where they might be an issue is very small indeed, by volume if not by value. The overwhelming majority of wines (including most of yours, so far as I can judge from your website) fall on the "most commercial" side of the line, where consistency and convenience trump (conjectural) possibilities of ultimate improvement over a shortish period of years, if they survive that long.

I take your point about different styles of winemaking between here and Australia, though I think the difference is not (nowadays) so stark as all that. And in either country, I wonder how much wine that "ought" to be kept for an indertiminate period of years after purchase is actually kept for an optimal time under optimal conditions. Though I understand why you have to sell them when they are not ideally ready.

As you say, in the end it's a matter of perception. I suspect, probably wrongly, that perceptions might change quite rapidly once they start to change.
Last edited by martyn94 on Tue 05 Apr 2016 18:45, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by montgolfiere » Tue 05 Apr 2016 13:08

Personally i always look for Cork. Especially hate the Plastoc versions.

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Post by Santiago » Wed 06 Apr 2016 19:54

martyn94 wrote:The overwhelming majority of wines (including most of yours, so far as I can judge from your website) fall on the "most commercial" side of the line, where consistency and convenience trump (conjectural) possibilities of ultimate improvement over a shortish period of years, if they survive that long.
I'm not sure if you are deliberately trying to be rude but that's how it comes across to me. Most of the wines I make are pretty artisanal and continue to improve for a decade or more. Don't be fooled by the low prices. I chose the corks because I believe they give me the results I'm looking for.

It's hard to judge a wine by looking at the website. I find it more reliable to buy a bottle :)
I take your point about different styles of winemaking between here and Australia, though I think the difference is not (nowadays) so stark as all that. And in either country, I wonder how much wine that "ought" to be kept for an indertiminate period of years after purchase is actually kept for an optimal time under optimal conditions. Though I understand why you have to sell them when they are not ideally ready.
In the Anglo-Saxon world, many people are unwilling to age their wines, especially those with little experience. That, and the idea that the producer should not release wines until they are ready to drink, is a shame. It has created a market for wines which are impressive early but fade quickly.

You are right that optimal time and conditions are almost impossible to achieve but it doesn't need to be optimal to still be a lot better than a commercial wine made for early drinking.
As you say, in the end it's a matter of perception. I suspect, probably wrongly, that perceptions might change quite rapidly once they start to change.
I think you have a perception and you want more people to have the same one.

I'm just trying to give some reasons why screwcap isn't a silver bullet.[/quote]
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Post by malcolmcooper » Wed 06 Apr 2016 22:21

If there was a "like" button for your response Jonathan, I'd click it.
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Post by martyn94 » Thu 07 Apr 2016 10:02

Santiago wrote:
martyn94 wrote:The overwhelming majority of wines (including most of yours, so far as I can judge from your website) fall on the "most commercial" side of the line, where consistency and convenience trump (conjectural) possibilities of ultimate improvement over a shortish period of years, if they survive that long.
I'm not sure if you are deliberately trying to be rude but that's how it comes across to me. Most of the wines I make are pretty artisanal and continue to improve for a decade or more. Don't be fooled by the low prices. I chose the corks because I believe they give me the results I'm looking for.

It's hard to judge a wine by looking at the website. I find it more reliable to buy a bottle :)
I take your point about different styles of winemaking between here and Australia, though I think the difference is not (nowadays) so stark as all that. And in either country, I wonder how much wine that "ought" to be kept for an indertiminate period of years after purchase is actually kept for an optimal time under optimal conditions. Though I understand why you have to sell them when they are not ideally ready.
In the Anglo-Saxon world, many people are unwilling to age their wines, especially those with little experience. That, and the idea that the producer should not release wines until they are ready to drink, is a shame. It has created a market for wines which are impressive early but fade quickly.

You are right that optimal time and conditions are almost impossible to achieve but it doesn't need to be optimal to still be a lot better than a commercial wine made for early drinking.
As you say, in the end it's a matter of perception. I suspect, probably wrongly, that perceptions might change quite rapidly once they start to change.
I think you have a perception and you want more people to have the same one.

I'm just trying to give some reasons why screwcap isn't a silver bullet.
[/quote]

When I try to be rude it's generally easy enough to tell.

I was simply going by what I found on your website: your wines almost all seem to be (stated to be) ready for drinking on release, and to be kept (where there is a recommendation) for a maximum of variously 2,3,4 years, two for 8, and one for fifteen. It seems from the descriptions, and it would be normal, that you make relatively more of the ones that mature most rapidly.

I am sure they are excellent wines, and improve as you say they do. It just seemed unlikely that differences of performance between cork and screw top could have large (or even perceptible) effects over the timescales relevant to most of them. It would be easy enough (though at some cost) to find out.

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Post by Santiago » Thu 07 Apr 2016 15:07

If you want to pay me to carry out your trial and bottle some of my wines under cork, DIAM and Screwcap so we can see the effect over various periods of time I'm happy to do that. About 1000€ would cover the additional costs and effort.

However, your first post wasn't about this subject, it was about being able to open and close bottles because you don't often finish them in one evening.

I still can't see how any of us changing to screwcap makes any difference. The wine isn't going to last any longer once you've opened it.

Why don't you just buy Bag-in-Boxes?
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Post by martyn94 » Tue 12 Apr 2016 13:48

Santiago wrote:If you want to pay me to carry out your trial and bottle some of my wines under cork, DIAM and Screwcap so we can see the effect over various periods of time I'm happy to do that. About 1000€ would cover the additional costs and effort.

However, your first post wasn't about this subject, it was about being able to open and close bottles because you don't often finish them in one evening.

I still can't see how any of us changing to screwcap makes any difference. The wine isn't going to last any longer once you've opened it.

Why don't you just buy Bag-in-Boxes?
I am not a winemaker, and I don't really care whether your business thrives or not. €1000 euros would be silly for me, to prove a point I don't ultimately care about, but might be a reasonable investment for you. Penfolds (to name the only example I know) sell a range of variously ingratiating, and often quite tough, wines under screw top in Australia and under cork elsewhere, because the local market demands it. I guess that ultimately someone will do a blind comparison.

I don't believe, and don't think I've said, that screw top keeps wine fresh materially better than cork between lunchtime and dinner (though it may help if you knock the bottle over or the cork breaks when you pull it, as happens): just that they are vastly more convenient.

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Post by Santiago » Tue 12 Apr 2016 16:14

Have you tried Vacuvin? The little pump that sucks air out of a half-full bottle? They can be bought at most cavistes and probably the bigger supermarkets.

If you want a more sophisticated system for more expensive wines, Coravin make a cool device that injects argon into the bottle as it draws the wine out and keeps the wine indefinitely. Oddly enough, it doesn't work with screwcap because the needle-hole doesn't reseal, like it does with cork.

Or you could even try one of these http://www.eater.com/2016/4/11/11406198 ... somm-synek
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Post by martyn94 » Wed 25 May 2016 14:43

The latest thing, apparently, is to store it 5m down in the étang de Thau

http://www.midilibre.fr/2016/05/24/du-v ... 337647.php

It seems from the video that they used conventional corks, and it didn't taste salty after 18 months. Nor did their clams taste much of wine, last Saturday night.

God knows what it all proves, beyond providing some cheap PR.

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