The Tasting Panel magazine

JUNE 2011

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FROM THE EDITOR Give Me Closure The way wine is stoppered continues to evolve. Just a few decades ago things were much simpler: There was natural cork and some cheap stuff in screw caps, that’s all. Now there are a multitude of closures as well as lots of packaging alternatives. The exploding popularity of wine caused a shortage of good natural corks, and an epidemic of wines tainted with TCA followed. At its worst, this plague affected a significant percentage of wines—around 10% in some cases. Vintners rushed to find a substitute. First there were those rock hard plastic “corks.” Anyone weighing less than 150 pounds had to call for help. I remember going to the aid of a diminutive Singapore Airlines flight attendant who couldn’t get her rabbit ears opener to penetrate the plastic. Then the Nomacorc came along, a plastic sleeve with a foam-like fill- ing—easy to extract, impossible to put back. Nevertheless, this was a major advancement over the original plastic corks. The Diam cork was next, a stopper made of ground and processed natural cork that was sterilized in a way to virtually assure there would be no TCA. This was attractive to vintners, particularly those who were still sentimentally attached to the old natural cork. Meanwhile, screwcaps were grabbing off a bigger and bigger chunk of the business. Yes, they were associated image-wise with some pretty questionable product in the past, but it was mighty hard to argue with the ease of use and sterile closure it provided. In fact, a whole country decided to put nearly their entire production under screwcap. The screwcap’s down- market image certainly hasn’t hurt the sales of New Zealand wines, which are among the hottest sellers throughout the world. A new wrinkle was added by Alcoa with their Vino-Seal glass stopper, an elegant and attractive closure that offers a perfect seal and snaps closed easily. The main drawback seems to be that this stopper can be costly. The Zork from Australia seems to be gaining some traction. A plastic device, the Zork opens easily and closes just as easily. It looks a little funny on a bottle, but people should get used to it. It works. To me, the worst development in closures is the wax-dipped finish. This is supposed to say, “Hey, look at us! Aren’t we cool?” Actually, what it says is, “I’m a pretentious ass and you’re gonna have to pay through the nose for this bottle . . . and then you’re going to have to wrestle with it to get it open and probably ruin your corkscrew in the process.” Come on, guys. We’re not impressed. Wasn’t the foil capsule invented to avoid this nonsense? Despite this aberration, closures seem to be headed in the right direction: efficiency and ease of opening. More and more vintners seem to understand that consumers are interested in what’s inside the bottle—and getting to it quickly. / the tasting panel / june 201 1 PHOTO: CATHY TWIGG-BLUMEL

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