Grange screwcap trials positive - but don't bin the corkscrew

Grange screwcap trials positive News Wine News
  • Monday 24 November 2003

Trial bottlings of Penfolds Grange with screwcap closures are ‘incredibly promising’ – but owners of the Australian legend should hang onto their corkscrews for a while yet.

Penfolds have been testing different closures on the mighty Shiraz-Cabernet – which is built to last 50 years or more – since the early 1980s.

While they are fascinated by the results, Grange head winemaker Peter Gago told the trials raise more questions than they answer.

‘The trials provoke research. All they indicate is how little we know about the chemistry of winemaking. We don’t really know if its oxidative, or reductive. Is micro-oxygenation through the cork a myth? We don’t know. How chemical ageing works is as interesting as whether an alternative closure is workable or not.’

Penfolds have been trialling Grange, Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz, Bin 2 Shiraz-Mourvedre under screwcap since the 1980s. Twenty cases of 2002 Grange will go under screwcap.

Gago’s colleague, winemaker Macgregor Forbes, said the results are ‘incredibly promising.’ Wines sealed with the metal cap evolve more slowly, but consistently and comprehensively.

‘I was worried that maybe the different components of the wine would age differently but it is very consistent,’ he said. ‘You’re basically looking at the wine as it should be seen.’

Gago himself said the wines age more or less identically under cork and screwcap. ‘It’s a very subtle – the difference between ageing in a cold cellar and a very cold cellar, for example.’

But there is no chance that Grange will appear on the shelves with a new closure. Gago makes it clear that trials can point the way, but we don’t know how screwcaps are going to look after decades in a cellar.

‘We have a responsibilty toward the people who invest in our wines,’ he said. ‘If you bought 10 cases of Grange and after 25 years the caps had all rusted, you wouldn’t be too happy.

‘It would be nice if we could speed up the trials with microwaves but with Grange we have to be a little more conservative.’

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