Screw Caps

Hi Terry,
I had the pleasure of meeting you at a dinner at the Wine House in LA a year or so ago, and I recall you commenting on your general approval of screw cap closures.

At that same dinner, I sat at the table with Helmut Donnhoff, and when I asked him about screw caps, his response was, “Once I see them on a Lafite or Latour, I will bottle my wines under cap too”.

Can you comment on the where the Riesling market is going with respect to closure types in general, and more specifically if more of your portfolio will be bottled under cap?

Thanks in advance!

Don’t intend to interrupt, but think interjection is useful here. Tablas Creek here in Cali has experimented with screw caps on both red and whites. The conclusion was generally that it retards development in relation to cork, based on vintage tasting of both varietals. They also concluded to not bottle reds any longer with screw caps, only whites. I can’t imagine anyone with an old world wine would put a screw cap on, it could be decades before that wine gets anywhere.

I see them as the lesser of two evils. Among the many growers with whom I work, those who’ve made the switch have managed it easily by diddling the SO2 levels at bottling. It’s not my experience that the wines “go nowhere.” I rather think we’ve begun to suppose that the accelerated development under cork is somehow normal.

The Austrians have been quicker off the mark than the more staid conservative Germans. Dönnhoff is entitled to his view, of course, just as I’m entitled to question it when I pour another corked bottle of his wine down the drain. In his case there’s a larger question in play, inasmuch as I’m willing to concede that the particular (and precious) texture of his wines are aligned with the gentle oxygenation that cork provides.

Thanks Terry,
I think I am with you on this one. Regardless of how the wines age, to me any wine that is damaged by even the slightest amount of noticeable TCA is BS. I would much prefer to drink an under-developed wine 50 years post bottling, than a corked wine ever.

I should clarify; I didn’t mean to say wines under cap go nowhere, they are just slower, noticeable even after a couple years (based on anecdotal winemakers tasting). My thought was that a particularly firm wine would not match up well.

I didn’t know about meddling with SO2 though, and maybe there are varying screw caps. I just thought Tablas’ experiment was very interesting for a winery.

In the case of defect, I agree, lesser of two evils most certainly.

This might be a bit off topic, but I think it’s relevant enough. Obviously there isn’t a wealth of information out there, but there has been some testing related to aging wines under screwcap. Multiple studies I’ve read about, most notably a recently completed one by the Australian Wine Research Institute on Semillon, have shown that the wines they’ve tasted have been slower to BEGIN to age (go nowhere for the first 2-3 years), but then follow an aging curve that’s not far off from a bottle sealed with a high quality cork. The comment about altering SO2 levels at bottling is, I believe, also important as less of it will bind to Oxygen (or whatever happens; I’m not great with chemistry) in those first few months in the bottle. Because of that, I don’t think it’s quite fair to bottle a wine under screwcap with the same amount of SO2 as the cork sealed bottles and compare the results.