A few weeks back, to a modest amount of apparent interest, I Tweeted about an impression I was getting about wine closures from my current experience in tasting through the ranges of about 80 wineries for the Platter guide. As you will realise, that involves opening a great many bottles of wine, added to all the others I’ve been opening throughout the year.
Actually, although I lack conviction either way in the squabble over the best way to seal wine bottles, I never feel quite so fond of screwcaps as I do in these Platter months – the ease of opening and closing outweighs any other possible consideration. And that’s apart from the danger of cork contamination (I’ve had just one instance of noticeable damage, so far).
My 144-character essay on my experience basically, and tersely, reported that it had been ages since I had even seen one of those dreadful bits of extruded plastic – “synthetic corks” – that were fashionable as stoppers in mostly cheaper wines have a dozen years ago. Even smart Villiera used them on some wines for just a few years, I seem to remember. Aesthetically dreadful, they were, and horrible to have around (especially if you wanted to replace the suddenly re-expanded “cork” in the bottle).
On the other hand, I noted that there seems to be a great increase in the use of Diam composite corks in South African wine. I remember when I last did any research into the matter, for an article in the old Wine mag many years ago, I came to the conclusion that the future for closures that I favoured was the various types of “technological” corks, like Diam – made from natural cork, but not as it came off a tree: reconfigured, reconstituted, as it were, and as guaranteeable as possible free from taint.
I wonder if those journalists who get wined and dined and schmoozed in Portugal by cork producer Amorim gained any useful insight into the technological corks? I’m sure that Amorim have also been developing them.
Now, as I – occasionally groaning – continue to forge ahead through my piles of Platter wines, I am still noticing the proliferation of Diams. (Beside me as I write, I can see them in opened bottles from Axe Hill, Stonewall and Tamboerskloof; while there are screwcaps from the Winery of Good Hope, and unreconstructed cork from Equitania and Leeuwenkuil.) And why not? Though they’re not nearly as good looking as natural cork, Diam seem to work very well, they presumably have much the same ecological advantage as corks – and also the latter’s arguable aesthetic advantage, requiring the pause and ceremony that I think fine wine is deserving of. Versus tinkly screwcaps, that is – though the newer, smarter, more expensive screwcaps with smooth outsides and internal threads, are markedly more pleasing than the really tinkly, trivial kind.
A closure that I haven’t seen at all for years now is that rather pleasing glass stopper called Vinolok… It never took on here, but there were a few wines using them. No longer, I think.
Anyway, yesterday I remembered my Tweet, as I opened a bottle sealed with a synthetic stopper. Really, they’re as unappealing as ever, in every possible way. I’d much rather have the tinkliest of screwcaps, or a crown cap. Mind you, as regards the wine in this particular bottle – it was pretty dreadful stuff, and I’d certainly rather drink water than let it loose on my tastebuds and stomach lining again.