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The cork stopper, according to common sentiments and various surveys, is the one that still today suggests a higher quality wine. The screw cap, on the other hand, guarantees a greater technical management of the wine, eliminates the risk of the “scent of cork”, and is increasingly widespread, even if, still, it does not break through among the higher-end wines, at least in countries like Italy and France. After all, cork vs vine is one of the many disputes that animate the debate within the wine supply chain. And, in this sense, April 21, 2022 could be remembered as the date in which a small, great revolution in the world of wine took place. It is evening, and, in the Milanese city at the Leonardo Hotel, Onav Milano organized the evening “Walter Massa at the cork test”, wanted by the famous Piedmontese producer. The result will be surprising: the screw cap wins the challenge and lays the foundations to undermine the cork from the bottles, even of wines of a certain level and not only of the “king of Timorasso”. But let’s proceed in order. In the room there are 65 Onav members including masters, experts and tasters, sommeliers from other associations and wine operators. Walter Massa and Onav teacher and oenologist Stefano Ratti lead the blind tasting. The test consists in comparing four bottles that contain wine from the same vintage, same tank, same vinification but sealed with four different corks. The experiment is conducted on two wines: the white Timorasso Derthona 2016 and the red Barbera Monleale 2016. The aim is to understand what effects the different corks have on the wine over time. Opened previously and without showing the corks, Timorasso Derthona 2016 and Barbera Monleale 2016 were served, closed with different types of screw caps and with different types of cork.
We all know the latter, but explains Ratti, today it is estimated that 7% of the bottles on the market suffer problems related to the scent of cork. For the others, a clarification is a must: there are different types and porosities of screw caps (as well as for cork ones, ed.). The guests in the dining room taste the two wines “blind” in the four versions, without knowing which types of corks referred to the different glasses. What happened to the typicality? To aromas? The comparison will have a surprising outcome, especially for Timorasso, where the different cappings have defined and definitely influenced the aromatic expression. After an intense and constructive debate, the classroom expressed itself almost unanimously on the capping of chalice number one as the best expression of the typical scents of Timorasso, the citrus component was evident as well as the typical note of hydrocarbon. It was the wine with the screw-capped bottle that was considered the freshest and most citrusy of the four and the most “Timorasso” of the series. And so, when Walter Massa reveals the cappings, the surprise is unanimous: the screw cap is the one most appreciated by all. On the reds the differences perceived by the classroom are minor and the overall judgments are divided almost equally between the four cappings. The only “ready” wine proved to be 4 (cork), a wine on which the two years in the barrique seemed more evident.
“On the white – summarizes Walter Massa – the screw cap made the difference, and on the red the differences between the four glasses were more attenuated, but the screw cap did not lose any points, it gives the same quality of the cork that had answered in perfect way “. Thus the winemaker who is making the screw cap a choice of field has the confirmation with an empirical test conducted by professionals and hopes that he can break into Italian culture and our wine market. “I hope that some ancient prejudices will finally be eradicated, which still persist among consumers, especially Italian and French, about the screw cap – added Massa – often mistakenly considered a tool used only in low quality wines. The screw cap is entering high-end Italian restaurants, the sommeliers are proposing them “. But in addition to the fact that screw caps cost less and allow the price of the bottle to be lowered to the consumer and are sustainable unlike those made of cork that is running out, the first reason for the choice for Walter Massa is another.
“A choice – explains the Piedmontese producer who owns the vineyards on the Tortonesi Hills – made for respect for the material, for my son wine, for the respect of those who want to drink a quality wine”. In fact, Massa always explains, “the white screw cap does not permeate the sulfur, so I put 40 grams per liter and no longer 50 grams per liter”. If the die had already been cast for a few years, now the choice will be more and more definitive. Walter Massa will screw all the whites of the 2021 vintage, while Moscato has already been so from 2018. The rosé Libertà by definition gives the freedom to choose and is screw capped. Little Derthona already has a screw cap. Derthona is the wine on which he experimented and is closed for more than 50% with the screw cap and the rest with the classic cap. Sentieri (Barbera) is also capped with both the screw and the classic cap, while the particular red “Implicito” (which has a liter or 1.5 liter size) has only a screw cap. “I have not yet experienced it on Croatina and Freisa which are rich in tannins – says Massa – but I think I will do it this year”. While the experiment on Barbera Monleale of 2016 gave a novelty: you need to use a closure that permeates a few grams of oxygen per year to stimulate its evolution and allow the wine to express warmth, velvet, silkiness. “As Erasmus of Rotterdam said – concludes Massa – wine is the reflection of the mind: whoever drinks my wine accepts my thought”.

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Marco Ribaudo

Marco Ribaudo

For the love of food and wine! Marco Ribaudo, Certified Sommelier, with 25 years in the food and beverage industry now invites you to join him in his latest adventure, the opening of la Cucina del Vino to share his culture and passion for creating unforgettable memories around the table.

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