Chateau Margaux director Paul Pontallier has said he’s ‘ready to use anything’ as a closure ‘if it works.’

Pontallier is putting two cases of the 2002 vintage of Margaux’s second wine Pavillon Rouge under screwcap as part of an experiment into the two different closures, natural cork and screwcap.

Keen to stress that Bordeaux producers are both watching and contributing to the closure debate, he said, ‘While the universities concentrate on scientific research, there are many chateaux in Bordeaux which are now starting experiments. I am ready to use anything if it proves to work. What matters is the wine.

‘I can certainly see the benefits of screwcaps for whites and would be very interested in using them for young reds that will be drunk within five years.

‘But we are far from knowing how red wines will age under screw cap after 25, 30, even 50 years, which is essential for us at Margaux.’

Pontallier said he was well aware of the pros and cons of natural cork, and wanted to find out as much as possible about screwcaps before committing himself. Frustrating as it is to open a spoiled bottle, he said we should be careful of knee-jerk reactions.

‘We will be as open-minded but as careful as possible: I don’t want to go from one inconvenience to another. It is certainly frustrating to find corked bottles of wine, but frustration may not be a good reason for making such a drastic change. As the French say, “la cholère n’est pas bon conseilleur – anger is not a good advisor”’.

  • George Fistonich of New Zealand screwcap pioneer Villa Maria says that from the 2004 vintage he will turn down orders rather than use corks, Adam Lechmere writes.

    ‘We are 100 per cent committed to the quality that the use of screwcap closures guarantees. To achieve this, Villa Maria has had to inform distributors in some markets – who in the past had ordered cork closures – that it is screwcaps or nothing. France was one of those markets.’

    He pointed out that his words might seem harsh, ‘but no other industry in the world accepts the type of product failure experienced using cork.’

    Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux