In lieu of my upcoming review of the Seppelt Silverband Grampians Sparkling Shiraz, which was crown sealed, I had another thought bubble today.
Philip White writes about “Australia’s love affair with the screwcap“; the increasing dominance of the screwcap as the main form of bottle enclosure, as opposed to cork (n.b after many cork failures, I’m a fan of the screwcap in still wines). My thoughts naturally carried over the use of cork and crown seals in sparkling shiraz.
Sparkling shiraz is still largely sealed by cork, at least seemingly at a ratio of 4:1, despite how often the crown seal is used during production (note the Tuesner video; Tuesner also prefer crown for final packaging too).
Is this because the ‘pop’ of the cork is symbolic of sparkling wine’s festive spirit, and thus producers keep it for semiotic, rather then production, reasons?
Or is there a production argument? None other than Accolade (née Constellation) fizz guru Ed Carr defends the cork in this article inspired by a disappointing cork failure:
According to Ed, “Cork closure and maturation under cork has a positive organoleptic effect and gives the wine additional complexity and character, hence we now use sparkling corks made by the new technologies which have an exceptionally low failure rate.A crown seal is an inert closure and as such the incidence of cork taint will be avoided, but conversely the wine will not develop the attractive characteristics of cork age. In tasting trials comparing cork and crown closures we have always found the former to be ranked significantly higher.”
When I asked for an elaboration on the “new technologies” here is the (short version) of the answer.
1. Reduction of initial contamination of the raw cork;
2. Improved boiling techniques, eg smaller batch sizes
3. Washing and /or steam distillation of sparkling cork granulate and discs
4. Introduction of strict QA programs using GC/MS to analyse for TCA at all stages of production.”
These technologies are not used by all cork suppliers and they usually come at an extra cost. Hardy’s carefully selects its suppliers based on continued performance and quality.”
The full text of Ric’s article is worth a read as a discussion point, though I’m not necessarily advocating all his commentary.
I do however suspect that crown seals will become the main choice of producers over the coming years, but I see this as much as a course of inevitability, as one led by taint / leakage / taste (either for/against) arguments.
UPDATE: 1 point to inevitability…
UPDATE 2: I was saving this link for a links-only post, but it’s related to this discussion. Check out Zorks over at Chris Plummer’s Australian Wine Journal.