All Muscadet should be screwcapped!

During my recent visit to London to attend to family affairs, I was very fortunate to meet up with my dear friend Nicos at RJs in S Kensington. He was kind enough to gift me a bottle of the `02 Luneau-Papin Excelsior Muscadet.
Last night I joined some staff from DeVines wine store at the Grill to sample some newly-arrived Loire reds. Thought my LP would go great with some shellfish?

TN: `02 Luneau-Papin Excelsior Muscadet.

Amazing color of medium straw with highlighted greenish tints. Don`t see many like this.
Very minerally upfront on opening, crushed sea-shells,lime peel, “musk-melon Bob” thought Nick my pal. I silently wondered if this one was corked as I asked what musk melon was.
Very dry, bracing acidity, just the way I want my Muscadet. Long lime finish, very citrussy, went great with deep-fried oysters.
I suggested we put the bottle aside for when the other 3 join us. Corked was the instant cry when they arrived an hour later. They were right, what a transformation on the nose…and what a pity.

By comparison, while attending a Greek wine tasting event in NYC a few weeks ago, I tried a Tselepos Mantinia (Moshofilero), and it was blah so-so.

Wandering back 20 minutes later, I chanced to encounter a taster saying “your [Tselepos Mantinia (Moshofilero)] must be off because I was told its probably the best white wine in this room.”

Damn if he wasn’t spot on. Scalped fruits and aromatics in the “off” bottle. A new bottle was very fine indeed. Only after purchasing a previous vintage of this same wine here in DC and a nd two cases in Balto did I realize it was sealed with a non-cork closure.

Different closures are sometimes used in different markets.

Indeed. But according to George Taber (http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine-review/483/To-cork-or-not.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)

Since Taber says in his book that it’s possible that TCA can originate from sources other than corks, we pressed for clarification. “There are a few anecdotal and confirmed cases of TCA problems in other products that have nothing to do with wine or corks,” Taber affirms. "I cited several of them, including the case of Heineken beer and > Nomacorc plastic stoppers> .

According to Taber’s landmark book, To Cork or Not To Cork (pp. 258-9):

Nomacork in 2004 received customer complaints that bottles with its closures smelled like horse stables. Studies revealed that the cause was talc used in producing the polyethylene products. That same year, a shipment of > Nomacorc plastic stoppers > was hit with TBA during shipment to Switzerland. Wooden planks in the walls of a shipping container were found to contain the offensive compound, which spread to the plastic.

What a coincidence ! I just pulled another Tselepos Mantinia bottle stopper. …
Wait for it ! … [winner.gif] NOMACORC ! hitsfan

In honor of the NY Times retread about Oz wines today, I offer up this John Casey retread about Controversies about Corks for those who never hung out ‘over there’:

http://www.torbwine.com/Stuff/caseycontrol.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

According to Taber’s landmark book, To Cork or Not To Cork (pp. 258-9):

Quote:
Nomacork in 2004 received customer complaints that bottles with its closures smelled like horse stables. Studies revealed that the cause was talc used in producing the polyethylene products. That same year, a shipment of Nomacorc plastic stoppers was hit with TBA during shipment to Switzerland. Wooden planks in the walls of a shipping container were found to contain the offensive compound, which spread to the plastic.

What a coincidence ! I just pulled another Tselepos Mantinia bottle stopper. …
Wait for it ! … NOMACORC !

For the record, another possibility emerged last weekend. After trying another bottle or two of Tselepos Mantinia, it dawned on me that I was beginning to detect varying degrees of carbonation. [truce.gif] Ahhh… I wonder whether that might be a more likely explanation of the scalped flavors and aroma experienced with the “off” bottle in NYC ??

“All Muscadet must be screwcapped” sounds like a recipe to save on my wine budget by getting me to stop buying Muscadet at all. Muscadet from the likes of Lunau-Papin or Marc Ollivier has the beautiful characteristic of being able to age twenty or more years in the bottle, provided it is sealed under natural cork. From the data I have seen about screwcaps as wine closures (and I have seen way too much of this data over the last year), the percentage of bottles that will be permanently reduced at age five is dramatically higher than the likelihood of bottles being tainted by TCA- at least as screwcaps are currently configured today as wine closures. I would be very surprised if down the road SC technology is not able to approach natural cork’s ability to allow enough oxygen ingress to prevent reduction in the underlying wine, but they are not yet there and at this point I do not want my Muscadet sealed up in anything but natural cork. The flip side is that the cork industry, after centuries of an egregious laissez-faire attitude to TCA has really made tremendous strides in the last decade in terms of targetting TCA for extinction, and I really do believe that there are dramatically fewer corked bottles out there today than was the case a decade ago. Further, I would be very surprised if another decade does not see the near statistical elimination of TCA from the natural cork process, as the research teams that companies such as Amorim have put together are very impressive and dedicated to coming as close to eradicating TCA as is humanly possible. As a wine writer I open a very large volume of bottles, and the incidence of TCA-tainted wines from new vintages is way, way down in the last five years (in my office at least). This still does not remove the pain of opening a great old bottle only to find it marred by TCA, but the future IMO looks very good for natural corks. Screwcaps on the other hand (admittedly I taste many, many less wines sealed under SC) have a fairly frequent incidence of showing early signs of reduction (the stripped down aromatics and flavors, overt minerality where none should exist, and short, clipped finishes) after age two or three, and while I do not keep precise records, reduction from SC runs higher these days than TCA-tainted bottles under cork in my tastings of young wines. But again, today’s SC technology for wine will not be tomorrow’s, and I certainly would not preclude the possibility that they will eventually get it right for wine with this closure. But at that point, I want them to tuck away that great bottle of Muscadet under both closures for twenty years and track the two at intervals, just to make sure that the SC really will allow the wines to age as well as natural cork. After that period, then I will start buying my Muscadet with SC closures- but we still have a way to go on that front.

Best,

John

John, I certainly agree that the incidence of corked bottles seems to be on the decrease when looking at recent vintages. A few years ago I monitored and recorded the incidence of corked bottles and had a figure of 3-4%, using all bottles opened at home or at restaurants as a denominator, excluding all screwcapped bottles or those with synthetic closures, and excluding all wines at organised tastings or similar where one would expect the wines to have been screened. I would say that I am well below 3-4% now. The only glitch in this is my recent experience judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards where about 10 of the 80-ish submitted wines showed cork taint, but other than this blip numbers do seem to be on the way down, even though I am opening and tasting more recent-vintage bottles than ever I think.

Good to see a sensible opinion on the ageability of Muscadet from top producers too - can I add Jo Landron to your list? Not everybody realises these wines can do so well in the cellar. I tasted as far back as 1982 with Pierre-Marie Luneau earlier this year and the wines were very fine indeed.

Amorim unveils whole cork that is cheaper than synthetic
Catherine Dawes, packagingnews.co.uk, 10 July 2009

http://www.wineindustryinsight.com/RSS//index.php/hop/latest/amorim-unveils-whole-cork-that-is-cheaper-than-synthetic-packagingnewscouk/6999" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Hi Kris,

I have not tasted the Muscadet of Jo Landron, but will make a point of searching out some samples, as I will be doing my annual Loire feature in the next issue of the newsletter. I love mature Muscadet, though I have to say that in general it is one of those wines that holds amazingly well and integrates its structural elements better on the palate with bottle age, but does not necessarily transform greatly aromatically with age. But in a top vintage my favorite age for drinking them is around ten to twelve years of age, as they really seem to be in a beautiful point on the palate at this age.

Glad to hear that my experience with corked bottles mirrors your own- now if we can only get someone serious to look at the problems of premature oxidation… BTW, one of the frequently heard aspects of the premature oxidation problem is that it is primarily limited to white Burgundy. What I have found is that this is emphatically not the case, and I have had plenty of experience with white Bordeaux and other dry wines as well that demand fairly long-term cellaring. I was just out tasting at Stony Hill in Napa and they mentioned that premature oxidation is torturing their wines as much as any producer in white Burgundy.

Best,

John

hey cool an “expert panel” tag