Will Bordeaux ever see a screwcap ?
The excitement died down as screwcaps became standard. Traditionalists would not touch them, and young dynamic industry professionals continued to extol their virtues. It emerged that we didn’t really know how long wine could age for under screwcaps – and let’s face it, it would be a few years before we found out. The screwcap crept into Italy and France. It made Vin de Pays fashionable again. White wine drinkers fell out with Australian Chardonnay and sales of Pinot Grigio soared. The wine industry found other things to talk about.
You will see screwcaps on Bordeaux – surveys have shown that generally we don’t mind them on whites and rosés that are destined to be drunk a year or two after bottling. But on the whole, we don’t want to see them on our reds – we just don’t trust them enough. And who wants to order a £300 bottle of Claret at Gordon Ramsay and have the sommelier ceremonially unscrew it? The red wines of Bordeaux are shrouded in mystique – they have history and prestige and elusiveness – the screwcap has no place here no matter how practical or innovative it is. Even if we already knew for certain that wine could age as majestically for decades as it does under a cork, we will never see a screwcap on a first growth because we just don’t want it.
That means, of course, that we take the chance that the wine will not be corked. Imagine buying a 1945 Lafite with impeccable provenance and opening it to find that it is not drinkable. Cork taint is not detectable and it presents a difficult scenario for wine merchants – shoppers can take a leaky milk carton back to Morrisons for a replacement, but it is less convenient to return a bottle of wine that you purchased in 1977. One in twelve bottles is a vague estimate that industry professionals seem to have settled on, but many think it is considerably higher.
In 2007, ‘Decanter’ reported that a second growth would be bottled under stelvin – Les Tourelles de Longueville, the second wine of Pauillac’s Pichon-Longueville. The wine was sold to the UK on-trade where it is a popular choice. Wine that was not destined for the restaurant trade was bottled under cork as before. The timing was bad as stelvins had hit the news once again – as it had been reported that one in 50 bottles could have a sulphurous ‘eggy’ stink. I haven’t tried the wine. As much as I respect the boldness and the innovation of the winemaker, where Bordeaux is concerned, I will take my chances with the cork. I know it is over-romanticising but I like to think of dusty bottles of Claret gently sleeping in their racks in the cellar, just waiting for the right time to be woken, not unceremonially stacked in boxes on top of one another just because they can age standing up.
Screwcaps are practical, and practicality has its place. But perhaps its place is in the supermarket, not the wine cellar.
Company formed in July 2011
Specialises in investments in the Bordeaux Fine Wine Market
In addition to IGW Brokers, we started 12x75.com which allowed us to talk about the fine wine market in less 'stuffy' ways, as well as being able to discuss both new and different ideas
IGW BROKERS/ 12x75
Edgware HA8 7RP
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