Rather than taking sides in the debate over the best wine closure, Château d'Agassac, a cru bourgeois estate in Bordeaux, is offering its trade customers the choice of cork or screw cap on its 2004 vintage.
Agassac's newest red, currently in barrel, is being presented for public scrutiny during the en primeur, or futures, campaign that begins in Bordeaux this month. The château's customers can order their preferred closure after buying the wine, which will reach the market in 2007.
"We wanted to offer a new service to our clients," said estate manager Jean-Luc Zell. "So far, the initial reaction has been encouraging. It looks as if we will be using screw caps for about 15 percent of the production in the first year of the initiative."
Agassac may be the first Bordeaux estate to release a screw-capped red to the public, but the closures are not entirely new to Bordeaux. Last year, producer André Lurton topped a percentage of the production of three of his white wines, including a Graves cru classé, with screw caps, though sources at the winery said that there are no immediate plans to do the same with the red wines. First-growth Château Margaux is also studying screw caps' effect on the way wine ages, using the closure on small amounts of its second red wine, Pavillon Rouge.
Zell said that he expects a positive reaction from countries, including the United States, in which screw caps posed less of a cultural barrier. "In France, it's a different matter," he added. "The preference for the traditional cork here remains very strong."
Agassac, located in the Haut-Médoc appellation, is owned by French insurance company Groupama. It produces around 15,000 cases annually of Château d'Agassac Haut-Médoc, which retails for $15 to $20. The screw cap alternative will not be extended to the 5,000-case production of the estate's second wine, Château Pomiès Agassac, which is destined primarily for the French market.
"I'm convinced of the integrity of the screw cap alternative and would like to see the day when we can bottle our entire production in screw cap," Zell said. "I like the sound of the cork as much as anyone, but, like everyone, I don't like the taste of a bad cork."
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions