A brief note as I transition, as they say, between a visit to Rome and re-immersion in the local. (Right now, the local means that the electricity has gone off for a few hours, so I’m doing this on my iPad by candlelight, lying on my sofa with Ollie sleeping with his head and paw on my thigh – bliss for both of us. Perhaps I’ll venture a grainy photo.)
It occurred to me to mention my surprise at finding that three of the ten bottles I opened in Rome had artificial corks. None had screw caps, incidentally, the rest were either natural cork or, a minority, composite cork. They were all mid-priced wines, mostly between 10 and 15 euros (most supermarket wines seemed to be about 3-5 euros).
My surprise was occasioned by the fact that I literally can’t remember when last I came across a plastic cork in a bottle of South African wine. One or two during my Platter tastings last year, I suppose, when I was certainly surprised just how many composite corks there were, especially Diams at the higher level.
But my impression is that the non-cork users here turn to screw caps rather than extruded artificial stoppers. The quality of the latter has certainly improved since the early days. One of my Italian ones was on a three-year-old wine which didn’t seem to have suffered any oxidation – as it quickly would have with the earlier, cheap plastic stoppers. Also, none of the plastic corks swelled on release and proved impossible to fit back into the bottle, which was one of the real problems I remember from those early days.
Aesthetically, however, the extruded stoppers on my Italian wines still seemed unpleasant to me. I can’t see the point of them – except for the immediate marketing point that the closed, capsules bottle appears initially to be traditionally cork sealed. I’d prefer a screw cap. At least theoretically.
But would I in fact have bought moderately serious Italian white wines sealed with a screw cap? I’m not sure, to be honest. So maybe the marketing team were right – I might have been disappointed as I wielded the corkscrew, but at least I’d irrevocably bought the bottle.