The British wine market loves screw caps. This is mostly due to the dominance of supermarket chains such as Tesco and Sainsbury, which sell masses of wine with screw caps. Most of their wine is around $5 or $6 a bottle and is consumed immediately. So they have fewer problems with screw caps.
So I was sort of surprised this morning over my cappuccino at home in Tuscany when I received an e-mail from a wine merchant friend in London, David Gleave of Liberty Wine. David is an old friend and clearly the best importer of Italian wines in the United Kingdom, and he is petitioning the Italian government to allow wine producers in DOCG appellations to use screw caps. For the moment, wine laws in Italy stipulate that DOCG wines such as Brunello, Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti Classico and others cannot use screw caps.
In fact, that law says that only “traditional closures” can be used, which basically means corks. I guess it could also include olive oil, because that’s what the ancient Romans used to seal off amphoras of wine. Nothing more tradizionale than that! But I don’t know any producers commercializing wine like that. (I am obviously joking!)
I think that DOCG wine producers should be able to use whatever they wish when bottling their wines, although I am not very happy with the idea of screw caps on Brunellos or any other top red from Italy for the moment. I think that there are still many issues concerning how reds age when they are bottled with screw caps. I think you have all read about these issues on this web site as well as in the magazine. (You can read both sides in our Great Cork Debate--pro-screw cap and pro-cork--as well as an article about The Science of Closures in our archives.)
But putting aside these concerns, I think that serious wine producers should be able to make the decision for themselves on what closures they use in bottling their wines. And that’s why Gleave has started a letter-writing campaign to the Italian Minister of Agriculture to get the DOCG laws changed.