Score One for the Cork Producers

It appears that word is out that 2 in 100 (2%) of screwcap-closed wines are infected with the smell of sulfur…or "likened by some to burning rubber, spent matches or even a schoolboy stink bomb."

This is still a rate of bottle taint that is at least half that of cork-closed bottles.

The news accounts that covered this discovery make note that the smell blows off. However, many folks are advising to stay away from RED wines closed with screwcaps that you plan to lay down, while going on ahead and not worrying about the whites that are meant for immediate drinking.

Score this one for the cork manufacturers who have been in an underground battle against the alternative closure manufacturers for some time.

But I have to pass on the interesting thing I found in one article on this subject:

"Geoffrey Taylor, a wine chemist who tests 14,000 capped bottles a year,
admitted that he had found sulphidisation. “Screwcap problems are
around 2 per cent for Australia and double that elsewhere."

Now, I don’t know Mr. Taylor. He may own a Lab at which wineries have their wines tested. But 14,000 screwcapped wines comes to about 1.5 bottles opened per hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Again, maybe he owns a lab or tests bottles opened at wine competitions. But that’s a heck of a lot of screwcapped bottles of wine.


10 Responses

  1. Tom S - January 16, 2007

    Humm?……. If true (which I somehow doubt) that means that screwcaps are still 5 times less likely (assuming the industry average of 10% problems with corks) to produce an off character than cork finished wines. I think that lab doing the testing is located in Portugal!

  2. Bradley - January 16, 2007

    Levels of SO2 have to be managed differently in wines that are destinied for screwcap. I know some producers who are using up to 70% less sulphur in red wines heading for the twisty top.
    Corks – come off a tree with all sorts of bugs. They have to get clean.
    Screwcaps – come off a factory line sanitized (maybe sterile?) and have to be kept clean.
    You make the choice, consumers!

  3. Mike - January 16, 2007

    Just back from New Zealand (Dec ’06) where it seemed that everything was under screwcap. I was initially quite worried as over the year or two previous I’ve had screwcapped wines from both Australia and New Zealand with obvious burnt rubber (mercaptan) odors that more often than not did not blow off. But we did not experience one problem, and we had a number of wine makers open fresh bottles for us.
    At one cellar door the discussion revealed that they were sick of getting bad batches of cork where there may be 20-30% taint!! Switching to screwcap was a no brainer, and reductive odors viewed as simply bad winemaking.
    Only one winery we visited was using the new Diam cork.

  4. Jathan - January 16, 2007

    So screw capped wines have less bottle taint then wines sealed with cork. This is a bad thing for the screw cap industry or simply marketing spin from the cork industry?

  5. Mat Garretson - January 16, 2007

    Sadly, the article was poorly researched…not to mention covers issues/events that are over a year old.
    The issue of ‘rotten eggs’ smell (H2S, etc.) has absolutely NOTHING to do with the type of closure used, but, rather, the winemaking.
    Therefore, to make any insinuation that screwcaps are the cause of such maladies betrays the author’s lack of knowledge on the subject…

  6. Erin - January 16, 2007

    The quote in this post made me do a double-take. I actually work with Geoffrey Taylor, who returned to the Canadian wine-making scene after an educational jaunt to Australia. The screw-cap testing was exactly the type of mundane, repetitive, horrible experiment that I would expect to be the result of a thesis project at Cool Climate Oenology & Viticulture Institute at Brock University.

  7. Erin - January 17, 2007

    Apparently I found a wine doppelganger. I asked MY Geoffrey Taylor at work this morning, and this isn’t him. There are two Geoffrey Taylors…both doing lab analysis, both in Australia at some point, and both in the wine industry.

  8. John Lopresti - January 18, 2007

    Amerine, Ough, and others have done substantial research on corks’ influence during long binning. It is true, as comments above depict, that vinification would be planned differently if the target closure were to be one that was as tightly sealed as a screw cap rather than a cork’s slow interchange of air.

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