The forest of spiral-topped bottles in front of me attested to just how fast things can change. It seems like only yesterday that a twist-off was a rare thing to see on a wine bottle.
The sight cheered me up so much I grabbed my video camera to share my joy. Check out my reaction here.
Three or four years ago, I came across screw-capped bottles only rarely. But even then Australia was way ahead of North America, and only New Zealand got out in front of Australia. In Oz, it started with the Clare Valley Riesling producers, who decided in 2001 to bottle them all under spiral. Although Yellow Tail, the most voluminous producer, still uses corks, Stelvin closures have spread to nearly every other white wine in the country, including the most famous one of all, Leeuwin Estate Art Series, whose closures I wrote about earlier this year.
Unequivocally, this is a good thing. Everyone agrees that white wines do not benefit from oxidation in the bottle, and a screw-cap seal allows virtually no oxygen to get through. In my experience, white wines age beautifully under spiral. They develop the extra nuances that come with time, but they also retain the freshness that makes another sip so compelling.
For red wines, there are those who think corks that let in a little bit of air are better for aging than screw caps that don't. I disagree. In my experience, the best aged reds come from perfectly preserved bottles. But even if you think a little bit of air is good, the Stelvin seal can be adjusted to let in a carefully metered amount.
The elephant in the living room, of course, is cork taint. That's the biggest reason why my table full of spiral-topped bottles cheered me up so much. When I am tasting cork-finished bottles, I always have to keep one nostril focused on detecting any TCA, the telltale aroma of cork taint. Sometimes it's so subtle you don't notice anything off, just an absence of fruit. If there is any question, I get another bottle to see if I can taste a difference. With nothing but twisties, I can focus on nothing but the wine.
That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
It hasn't taken long for these closures to take hold in no-nonsense, pragmatic Australia. I can't wait for the rest of the world to catch up.
Farhana Haque — Queens, NY — August 27, 2008 6:56pm ET
Doug Eaton — Phoenix, AZ — August 27, 2008 8:28pm ET
Robert Guinn — August 27, 2008 9:45pm ET
Didier Ghorbanzadeh — August 28, 2008 1:35am ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — August 28, 2008 1:55am ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — August 28, 2008 11:09am ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — August 28, 2008 2:34pm ET
Larry Schaffer — Central Coast — August 28, 2008 4:35pm ET
Larry Schaffer — Central Coast — August 28, 2008 5:34pm ET
Pacific Rim Winemakers — August 28, 2008 5:39pm ET
Kevin Smith — Sunshine State — August 28, 2008 6:15pm ET
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel — August 28, 2008 6:52pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — August 29, 2008 10:37am ET
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel — August 29, 2008 6:10pm ET
Dave Joyce — Winston-Salem, NC — August 30, 2008 8:09pm ET
Dave Devine — Leverkusen, Germany — September 2, 2008 7:51am ET
Kevin Smith — Sunshine State — September 2, 2008 9:20pm ET
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