Many of you are familiar with the subject of closures for wine bottles, especially if you have ever tried to open a stelvin cap as if it were a cork (I admit it fooled me once). As far back as the 1950s we bottled gallons and half gallons with screw caps and fifths (now 750ml) using both cork and screw cap. While these closures have come a long way in both quality and style how does using either one affect wine as it ages? It has to do with oxidation. Cork allows the important but miniscule amount of oxygen to interact with the wine and, as it ages, it softens becoming a more complex wine. Screw caps also allow a bit of oxygen but much less and we believe they deliver a fresher version of the wine-by slowing the oxygen exchange. The mechanics so to speak of a red wine that has been aged develops a more pleasant texture because tannins soften and fruit becomes more balanced. We bottle all but one red wine with cork. Our friends.red, meant to be consumed early because it is made in a lighter, softer style, has no need for extra time in the bottle. Five others (4 white wines, 1 rosé) are bottled with screw caps. These wines are made in a style where we encourage you to drink them soon after bottling. An interesting case in point: a month ago I tasted our 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and was pleasantly surprised to see the wine had not oxydized (it remained a lovely straw color), the bouquet had lost most of the fruit which is the core of our style but all in all it was a very pleasant glass of white wine. This is not always the case-too much oxygen and aging will turn some white wines brown and funky, definitely not to be enjoyed. I feel each of us needs to do a bit of sleuthing about the wines we feel needs to age and those which should be opened in a month, year or two after purchase. I found a great article by Andrew Waterhouse, professor of Enology at UC Davis, who has more to say about natural and synthetic closures. Check your cellar, cache or wine rack for wines you may want to open now or continue to age. We’ll continue the discussion next week as we head toward Open That Bottle Night on February 28-what will be in your glass?
Dr. Waterhouse's article.