On the blogby Alfred
October 23 2018

Cork or screw cap, the dilemma!

by Pascale Lemieux

The comparison between the cork and the screw cap is still relevant for wine consumers.

On the one hand, one cannot deny the desirable effects of the cork and the irrefutable evidence of its beneficial effects on wine aging. On the other hand, experimentation and innovation are at the heart of the discourse to adopt the screw cap. Let’s first look at the main reason why winemakers adopted accessories other than the cork to clog their bottles of wine. The alternative of the screw cap was born, certainly, from the desire to decrease the disappointments and losses related to the fault “corked” wine.

We all have opened with feverishness a bottle of wine, kept in ideal conditions, after having waited for the optimal aging. Despite all precautions taken to ensure its quality; regulated and constant temperature (around 12 ° C), humidity levels (at least 70%), sheltered from any source of vibration, light and unwanted odors, the so-called wine has a cork smell that masks all its primary aroma (fruity, herbaceous, floral, spicy …) Fate of misfortune, this characteristic smell of corks is confirmed at the tasting.

If in doubt, know that the smell of cork increases with oxygenation. Let the wine aerate in the glass a few minutes, the cork character will be enhanced and becomes obvious. This taste of corks and mildew in wine may be due, in most cases, to the presence of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA). This element can be found by default in wine, synthesized under the action of molds from chlorophenols. The latter, derived from chlorine, can come from tree bark polluted by insecticides, air, chlorinated hygiene products or wood treatment products (pallets). These molecules are concentrated in porous materials, therefore necessarily in cork, but also in the packaging cartons of wine bottles.

This recurrent defect associated with the cork has influenced a slight decrease in its use in the last decade. Since then, manufacturers have addressed the issue by developing treatment methods that have significantly reduced the level of TCA contamination of corks.

For example, the use of chlorine is now avoided because it is proven to be a factor in the genesis of chlorophenols. In the same vein, Amorim, a Portuguese company, has implemented systematic quality control. In prevention, the removal of the bark near the ground, where the molds are more numerous, is avoided. At the production stage, the cork planks are sprayed with hot water in a boiling system, which is used to remove cork contaminants.

In the end, each stopper is sifted on the production line instead of just batch control. By investing in tighter control over the quality of the product, the world’s largest producer of corks claimed in 2016 that it had reduced the presence of TCA by 80%. This superior technology (NDtech) is reserved for top-of-the-range corks used for expensive wines, but the manufacturer intends to extend the process to lower cost products eventually.

Other companies today use steam distillation practices to decontaminate cork during its manufacture. Oeneo (a French company specializing in cooperage and corking wine) is a good example. The latter has invested in a revolutionary process patented since 2005 (Diam) that purifies cork and eliminates any risk of “cork taste” by extracting molecules present in the cork to ensure the absence of organoleptic deviations. This same technique is used to extract caffeine from coffee.

Although these methods significantly reduce the risk of wine defects associated with the cork, some winemakers resort to the use of the screw cap to close their wine bottles. The choice of the screw cap generates the following advantages; lower cost of production, easy unscrewing and closing for the consumer, hermetic sealing without leakage, constant quality from one bottle to another and better protection of the aromas because of the reduction of gas exchange.

Those who believe that oxygen transfer is not possible for a closed wine with a screw cap, think again! The manufacturer Oenoseal offers a range of seals adaptable to all types of screw caps metal, plastic or crown for all types of wine. This range of seals allows the winemaker to choose the most suitable OTR (oxygen transfer rate) seal sought for the type of wine to be packaged.

The seal is printed with the brand Oenoseal® Onyx, Ivory or Coral, offering reference and authenticity to the winemaker and to the consumer. In the light of these explanations, we can conclude that there is on the market very good wines of guards clogged of a screw cap as much as we can find wines for immediate consumption with corks. The clothes don’t make the man.

The choice is up to the winemaker depending on the type of wine produced and its marketing. It is therefore our duty as an informed consumer to find out the characteristics of the wine purchased and its potential for aging. Be aware, however, that in the heartbreaking situation of a corked wine, you should not hesitate to return to the seller with proof of purchase (the bottle should at least be ¾ full). There are exchange and refund policies in place from most merchants, including the SAQ.  Alfred also offers a one (1) year warranty from the date of purchase covering the original defects on all products featuring the Alfred Guarantee logo on its online store www.ALFRED.vin

To end, here is a fantastic wine I recently discovered! For Pinot Noir lovers: 2010, Sun and Moon, Seresin Estate, New Zealand, Marlborough.

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