On the Cellarit Facebook page, I noted that Huon Hooke reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that Penfolds will now give people a choice of cork or screwcap. According to Penfolds’ chief winemaker, Peter Gago, “cork is a barometer of care.” It’s a better indicator of bad handling, heat damage or poor storage conditions, because the cork will leak or, if affected by heat, slightly push up into the seal. (Sydney Morning Herald, 10 April 2012)
David Hawkins of One Aussie Wines responded to my Facebook post with the following comment: “Peter Gago may be correct, but I’ve had plenty of wines with corks that were up or down and the wine was fine…unfortunately TCA doesn’t offer any clues and that’s a more relevant fault for most people. I’ve also had heat affected bottles where there was no leakage or cork movement.”
Penfolds’ move is certainly sparking a fair bit of controversy. Hooke followed up on his article in the Herald with a post on his website. He noted that for Penfolds one of the key factors behind the move back to cork is increasing exports to markets like China where expertise on how to store, transport and properly care for wine is still developing.
But whether reverting back to cork is the best answer to gauge whether a wine has been heat damaged is debatable. Ian Riggs, chief winemaker at Brokenwood, was just as skeptical as David about whether cork was a better barometer of care than screwcap. He told Hooke:
Why don’t they just admit that they have buckled to the demands of their export markets and gone back to cork? To state that it is a way of showing up badly stored wine reeks of April Fool’s Day. So now, wine from all over the world is going to be replaced as soon as there’s a slightly pushed cork or signs of weeping? Here’s an idea: get better storage up to the point of sale to the customer and then start an education program to get the wines looked after once purchased... [Read More]