The Cork Debate

I am becoming more than a little tired of the cork debate. Before the zealots from either side get started (and both sides can be very evangelical at times) I fully accept that corks are a very unreliable form of closure. It is deeply frustrating to spend a large sum of money on a bottle of wine, lay it down for a few years, only to discover the wine is faulty. That aside, when pleasant conversations about wine degenerate into heated discussions about corks and screwcaps, I tend to lose interest rapidly.

At a dinner party last week, I served two bottles of Cepparello 2006, Paulo di Marche’s subtle elegant Super-Tuscan Sangiovese. They had been given to me as a thank-you by a very generous friend. The sole difference between the two was one had been bottled under cork, the other screwcap or stelvin. David Gleave, M.D. of wine importer Liberty has persuaded some of his producers to change to screwcap for his U.K. clients although conservative Italy and other countries still demand cork. Our tasting was inconclusive. The screwcap version seemed slightly fresher – or was it my imagination? But both were super wines, subtle refined and mellow. We happily drank both.

However, Gleave’s point (and that of others too) was proven not by the Cepparello but by the wine I served with the starter; Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2002 from Trimbach.  This is one of my favourite wines. The first bottle was fine but a little shy and retiring. The second was superb; more developed with magnificent honey and nuts wrapped up in a fine core of acidity. Neither wine was corked or faulty. It was simply bottle variation. Had I only uncorked the first bottle I would have been a little disappointed, wondering why I had bought a case of this wine when I came across it at a tasting four years ago. A fairly conclusive argument for screwcap?

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