There are pros and cons to any wine closure; some are based in scientific fact, others are based on consumer perception. We decided to put together a tasting to compare the effect of the 2 closures on the ageing and thus the taste of the wine. In a nutshell: What closure has the wine tasting better after time in the bottle?
To kick proceedings off, we tasted the lovely non vintage rosé MCC from Le Lude: Second fermentation under crown cap vs under cork (secured with an agrafe). The wines were clearly different, with the wine under crown cap showing more fruit, especially strawberry. The wine under cork was richer, broader and showed clear brioche character. Fascinating stuff, when you know that both wines were identical when bottled.
Panel choice: standard crown cap 4 – 7 cork 2nd ferment.
Here’s the list of still wines tasted and our nuts & bolts observations:
- Tokara Directors White 2006 – wine under cork clearly more developed and rich. Wine under screw cap more fresh, still had a few years of ageing to go. A standout of the tasting. Panel choice: Screw cap 9.5 – 1.5 Cork (we had a fence sitter)
- Raats Family Wines Chenin Blanc 2006 – the wine under cork was very developed, decidedly nutty and broad, developed very quickly in the glass. The wine under screw cap showed less development and thus fresher fruit character. Panel choice: Cork 2 – 9 Screw cap
- Steenberg Merlot 2012 – one wine under cork, 3 under various types of screw cap (1 had a Saranex liner intended for a relative short shelf life of 6 to 12 months; the other 2 with Saran tin liners of various oxygen permeability). The difference was remarkable, even on these young wines bottled in October 2013. Panel choice: Cork – 2, Saranex liner – 0, Saran tin liner with little O2 – 4, Saran tin liner with least O2 – 5.
- Rustenberg Syrah 2008 – wine under cork was infected with TCA and the wine under screw cap had some sort of bacterial infection (showing methyl mercaptan). No vote.
- Dombeya Boulder Road Shiraz 2011 – both wines were very similar. Both showed quite youthful. Panel choice: Cork 8 – 3 Screw cap
- Rustenberg John X Merriman 2006 – both wines were loved by the panel, with the wine under cork clearly showing more herbacious notes. Both wines were rich and full but delivered the most interesting results by the panel. Panel choice: Cork 10 – 1 Screwcap.
A few observations and notes:
- 9 of the 11 panel members had no idea what or why they were tasting these wines. 1 panel member knew why, but never which wine was being poured. They were asked to simply evaluate the wines and vote on a favourite in every flight.
- All wines were tasted blind in pairs
- General consensus was that the white wines showed the larger difference in taste (and colour) but they were also both 9 years old.
- The panel also assumed (after the reveal) that the Dombeya Shiraz was simply still too young to see the influence of closure, although the even younger Merlot showed marked differences.
- The “corked” bottle of Rustenberg Syrah showed exactly the problems being experienced with a cork closure but then
- the screw cap on the same wine did not stop bacterial taint.
- The Rustenberg John X Merriman was the one exception to the average choice – the wine under cork closure was the preferred one by far. This wine was also older, so the difference between the 2 wines were clear.
- The results of the Steenberg Merlot experiment were super interesting: Comparing different types of screw cap closures is not something you get to try every day!
- Wines of the Day: Tokara Directors White 2006 and the Le Lude NV Rosé MCC (watch this space for more details on Le Lude).
- We need to get over our preconceptions; screw cap is not a closure for cheaper wines and there is evidence that the wines do age much better under the correct screw cap closure.
- While cork as a closure is quite the romantic thing, getting a “corked” bottle of wine is probably the worst feeling in the world.
- Observation from the panel (that included a wine maker or 2) was that you need to make wine that is tailored to your closure.
- Wine is awesome.
A big thank you to all the wine makers who contributed their wines so generously and had to guts to do this experiment and to Blouberg Craft Brewery for the great tasting venue.