Ongoing frustration with cork taint has convinced another high-end wine producer to try an alternative. Oregon's WillaKenzie Estate, which is located in the northern Willamette Valley, will bottle 15 percent of its 2001 vintage with Stelvin brand screw caps and, depending on market response, intends to use the closure on 50 percent of its 2002 wines.
WillaKenzie makes about 15,000 cases per year of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Meunier, with prices ranging from $18 to $35 a bottle.
WillaKenzie winemaker Laurent Montalieu has grown increasingly dissatisfied with natural corks, which can become tainted with TCA, a chemical which may impart overtly musty overtones to a wine or may simply mute its flavors and aromatics.
"I'm getting anywhere from 3 to 10 percent of my wines affected by cork taint," he said. "We're putting all this effort into the vineyards and throughout the production process, and it's very frustrating not being able to guarantee that every bottle is the same."
Despite their former association with jug wines, screw caps are now becoming increasingly popular among some quality winemakers who believe them to be the best closures for preserving wine's freshness.
Last September at the winery, Montalieu hosted 400 customers at a seminar on TCA. Three wines were served: one badly tainted, one moderately tainted and one pristine. While many of the customers said they would have consumed the corked bottles, there was a clear preference for the wine without any taint, Montalieu said.
"By the end of the seminar, 99 percent of the customers said they'd love to purchase bottles with screw caps and would have no fear about opening a bottle for a guest," said Montalieu.
Check our recent ratings of WillaKenzie wines.
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