Les Tourelles de Longueville 2004: Cork or Screwcap?

There are many facets to wine that stimulate fierce debate; machine versus manual harvesting, the en primeur system, the US distribution system, points, the influence of critics and so on. But I suppose that few such debates have spawned as many column inches as the matter of closures; today bottles may be sealed using natural cork, synthetic closure, or alternatively screwcaps such as Stelvin®, or even the glass Vino-Lok® system. Nevertheless, although of great merit, this is not a debate on which I have ever made any significant comment. Strongly biased opinions abound, but I myself have long remained in a state of equipoise. Although I acknowledge the potential success of the screwcap (which is certainly the dominant alternative to cork), faced with the uncertainty of how wine ages under screwcap, versus the corky evils of inconsistency and taint, both of which have to be be considered in the context of many centuries of use and our familiarity with the system, I have never been convinced that one method of closure has a clear advantage over the other.

Les Tourelles de Longueville 2004: Cork or Screwcap?

It is unlikely that there will be one giant randomised controlled trial to establish without doubt the efficacy of one method of closure over another, although there is certainly research ongoing, most notably at the Australian Wine Research Institute. So we must look to other sources of data, and in 2007 a press release alerted us all to one potential source of valuable information. The UK merchant Bibendum announced that a proportion of the bottles of Les Tourelles de Longueville, the second wine of Château Pichon-Baron, would be bottled under Stelvin® screwcap. Others would be bottled under cork, with the former being distributed to the on-trade (restaurants, wine bars and the like) whereas the traditional cork would be found in those bottles distributed to Bibendum’s private customers, in other words you and me. This new move would commence with the 2004 vintage.

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