I realize this subject has been done to death, but I thought I'd try it on and see how it fits. The subject is screw caps, synthetic corks and TCA. Personally I don't mind synthetic corks or screw caps on wine that I plan on plowing through at the speed of light. But I'm a bit romantic and Gollum-like about corks in my "precious" wines.
This isn't a randomly chosen topic. I bring it up due to some very specific recent events. Right now feels like the perfect time to try out my new favorite word: Pontificate.
We're in the process of putting our Arizona Stronghold blends together from our recently acquired vineyards in Cochise County, Ariz. Looks like there will be two reds and one white: a Rhône-style red blend (called Nachise), a Tuscan-style red blend (Mangus) and a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Malvasia (Tazi).
We're looking to make our Stronghold wines available for roughly $20 retail. Because the Tuscan blend is predominantly Arizona Sangiovese, for the purpose of perspective, we did a blind tasting of 2005 Sangioveses from around the world at the same price—several from California, an Australian bottling and several from Italy.
Three of the four Italians were either corked, had brett or suffered both flaws. I had already planned on using synthetic corks for the Stronghold wines (our entire bottling line is set up for corks), and this tasting further strengthened the argument for cork alternatives.
Or so I thought until winemaker Eric Glomski brought up an interesting point. Many of the "affordable" Italian wines are still being made in the "Old School" manner, and it's possible that the TCA is coming from the winery or old barrels and not from the corks. One contributing factor is using bleach to sterilize winery equipment (as the chlorine interacts with plant phenols and mold to form TCA).
So the wine can be tainted long before it makes it to the bottle. I did not know that. I assume there are a bazillion blogs on this subject (you can read some of James Laube's on TCA and failed corks), so forgive me if this area has already been discussed to the point of exhaustion.
From the perspective of a businessman looking at the bottom line, there is no doubt that eliminating corks from a multimillion-bottle production can increase profit margins. But as I'd mentioned, I'm just sort of romantic about the whole cork-pulling process—and so far, I've chosen to close all my Caduceus and Merkin Vineyards wines with top-quality corks. Am I a dinosaur? Should I be on the lookout for tar pits? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
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