I'm Getting Screwed

I try to be as much a minimalist as possible in life. I don't like to over-complicate things, and I'd always rather look at the forest than get bogged down in the trees.  I am a firm believer in Murphy's Law. So, when I started formulating a plan to finally make wine for myself, I wanted to practice what I preach.  This is why I make only one blend.  This is why I chose to use screwcaps instead of corks.

Wine first started to be bottled, rather than transported in casks or amphorae, sometime in the late-17th or early-18th centuries.  People were stoked to be able to carry small volumes of wine with them, and a cork was a great way to reseal the opened bottle.  For hundreds of years, few thought this technology needed improvement; sometimes the wine smelled musty, sometimes the cork dried out and the wine became oxidized- oh well.  When fancy instruments like gas chromatograms were developed post-WWII, we could finally see what individual molecules were in a sample of wine.  The most common of the strange, musty, moldy smells could finally be isolated: 2,4,6-tricholoroanisole (TCA.)

Corks come from the cork oak, Quercus suber, which is native to the Iberian peninsula and northwest Africa.  One peels the outer bark off, but the tree survives and grows more bark.  This bark is punched into cylinders and then washed before shipping to wineries around the world.  Cork taint, the wet newspaper smell mentioned above, is produced from either natural molds on the bark or as a byproduct of the chlorine bleaching process during manufacturing.  TCA is detectable by the human nose at very small levels, around 3 ppb, so it doesn't take much cover up all those aromatics the winemaker was trying to preserve.  The number of bottles affected ranges from 0.5%-2.0%.  I would be surprised if any other manufacturing industry tolerated failure of a component at this level!

Screwcaps are made from aluminum alloy and come in any number of colors and finishes.  The actual part of the cap that touches the wine is lined in layers of polyethylene and, sometimes, foam or tin.  These layers serve to protect the wine from too much oxygen and to avoid picking up any metallic off-flavors from the raw aluminum. There are even screwcaps that mimic corks for the amount of oxygen ingress allowed (usually around 0.1 mg/L of O2 per year.)  Since most screwcaps let in less air from outside, you must be wary of certain things when sealing your wine this way.  Any reductive characters (rotten egg, cabbage, corn) will likely reappear in the bottle, even if they went away in barrel.  To avoid this, I rack my barrels in the spring and make a rough blend.  I try to get some vigorous splashing in the tank and don't bother using inert gases to blanket the wine.  This "clean" wine is put back to barrel to mature until bottling in late-summer.

The last thing I want is for someone who doesn't know my wine to think it smells like cork taint.  I could lose that consumer forever.  I promise to do everything in my power to make sure that every bottle you buy is sound and meets your expectations – just minus the pop.  I don't love screwcaps, but I do prefer them.