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T O P I C     R E V I E W
Joe Dressner As a guy in the trade, even though we are currently selling our company, I would like to know everyone's experience with synthetic corks.

I'm looking for data points not hypothetical assertions.

For instance, a useful data point would be....I had a 2002 Blah-dee-Blah which was oxidized. I've been buying this wine for years and never had this problem.

An unuseful contribution would be....I have cellared huge quantities of 2002 Blah-dee-Blah and am very concerned because I hear it is in a synthethic cork and everyone knows wine in synthetic corks will not age well.

Lastly, I am only looking for data about synthetic corks and suggesting that stelvins will solve all problems in life is not really helpful, although feel free to start your own thread to discuss that closure.

My thanks in advance for everybody's help, particularly Alice Feiring.

Joe Perry What is this 2002 Blah-dee-Blah that I keep hearing about and where can I get some?

Florida Jim picked a bad time to stop buying.

Andrew My experience with the Neocork style synthetics--spongy middle with a thin plastic casing--has been good. No oxidation, no unusual flavors. I have had oxidized wines from the plug style--solid molded plastic--corks.
Joe Dressner Thanks Andrew and welcome back!

Do you recall particular wines and vintages?

Chris Coad My experiences with fake-cork wines have been uniformly positive. I've probably been through upwards of a thousand of them over the past five or six years and never had an oxidized or off-flavored bottle. Even the wines with five or six years' age have been pristine. I hear everyone complaining about the things all the time and don't have a clue why I've got this inexplicable success rate, but you asked for data points, so there you go.

Brad L Specifics:

About a half case of Texier St. G Cadinnieres 2000 - I think this is (was) a stunning, implosive, old viney gem that in short order went belly up...just had one that was a pale shadow...I have one left. I would not call this oxidized...just that it aged and faded in a weird way. First two were great, then turned a bad corner.

2002 JJ Christoffel Urz Wurz Kabinett...similarly, this formerly lovely wine took an odd turn after about a year and now my last bottle (out of maybe 6) tasted like a semi sophisticated lemonadey wine cooler.

2004 Puydeval Chardonnay - I had I think 4 bottles of this...last summer very nice, pure, now, disjointed, thin. (Recognize this is not an ager).

OK, for someone so excited about my Recorking Primer, I realize that's a short list. But I was really bummed about the Texier and the Christoffel, and I'm just suddenly seeing more and more wines that I would like to age over the short and mid term with these closures, and I'd rather go down the road with corks. Plus, recorking is a lot of fun, and that counts for something.

Here's my take: 95% of the wine out there gets drunk within a year of production and is not intended to age. The stuff you buy at Trader Joe's or wherever. Get that stuff under plastic or Stelvins. Then the pressure on cork quality will totally change and we'll be back to an era of better cork. From what I understand the # of corked bottles has increased as quality of cork has gone down (this may be totally inaccurate). So let's be more sustainable and use less but better cork on the wines the 29 wine geeks are going to age.

The bottom line for me: the wines w/ plastic corks that I've aged in the mid term (recognizing a small sample size, but I hear the same from many people) essentially come apart at about 2 years. So if I'm going to age something, I'm not going to do it if its under plastic. I'd rather have one corked bottle than every bottle be sub par.

I have not paid attention to Nomacork vs. plastic and probably should.

Brad Liljequist

Andrew Domaine de Montgilet 2005 Anjou rouge has a Neocork style synthetic cork. I thought the wine was light and fresh with none of the blood/iron flavors I usually associate with Anjou reds. I have no idea if the synthetic cork has anything to do with that but the wine was consistantly delightful over four bottles.

Can't remember which plug style wine was oxidised. It only sticks in my mind because it was a wine under synthetic cork that had it's own set of stopper problems. This was a couple years ago. The molded plastic corks seem to falling out of favor. I rarely see them anymore.

Not trying to derail your thread or anything but I have to add that I prefer a natural cork. It is my belief that, TCA aside, natural cork has a positive influence on the flavor of wine. Not just the slow oxidation that happens over many years under a quality cork stored in good conditions but an immediate compliment to the wine that shows just a few weeks after bottling. Though it's often very subtle, cork, like any other wood, has a flavor.

That said, as a consumer, I honestly don't care too much if the wine I'm buying is under cork, plastic, or screwcap. I prefer cork, for the reason stated above, but it's just a bottle of wine. Buy, drink, repeat.

skraft While rummaging through the locker a few weeks ago, I discovered a case of 2000 Texier Chusclan. Neocork. I figured these would be OTH. Opened one that evening, fantastic. Fresh and delicious. Bought on severe closeout at the place in the East Bay.
Rieslingfan Similar if not identical experiences to Brad's on the 2002 Christoffel UW Kabinett. It was fine for a couple of years then started to go downhill fast.

Going way back I had some Bonny Doon wines (various versions both cheap and not so cheap) with synthetics that just plunged over the hill after about 2 years.

I have also broken 2 cork screws and 3 bottles trying to extract the extruded plug type corks.

MLipton In Feb. 2003, we opened two Siduri Pinot Noirs. The first was a '96 Santa Lucia that had been bottled under a blue plastic cork. It was as dead, flat and lifeless a wine as it's ever been my misfortune to taste. Alongside it, we opened a '97 Oregon bottling from the same producer, but in a cork-finished bottle. That wine, in contast to its sibling, was alive and tasting like a Pinot Noir should, if not in a very exciting way.

Mark Lipton

SFJoe I haven't aged much wine under fake cork. I've had some tired things from Bonny Doon under the homogenous corks. I've had perfectly fine things from Ollivier, Brun and Texier under Neocork type things, but they were all recent releases.

I would be careful not to lump the different fake corks together, and I wonder how more recent versions of the fake corks differ.

I have not observed problems with reduction or SO2 under the fake closures, although I am not as sensitive to these issues as to others, nor am I as sensitive as some other tasters of my acquaintance.

OTOH, two thirds of my '97 Pepiere Busters have been corked, as were 4/6 or so of my older Clivi Brazans.

potuga Joe way to many

Hirsch 99 GV Heiligenstein
2002 non Briord Muscadet 2 times in a month
JJ Christoffel anything past 1.5 years

thats the tip of the iceberg

JF Seattle

bla de blah

potuga Joe way to many

Hirsch 99 GV Heiligenstein
2002 non Briord Muscadet 2 times in a month
JJ Christoffel anything past 1.5 years

thats the tip of the iceberg

JF Seattle

L84Dinner I've found more of an issue with wine bought in shops that turned out not to have stored it under optimal conditions than with plastic corks. Have not had a bad plastic-corked wine yet from good provenance, although none of them older than 3-4 years bottle age so far.
MLawton are you buying wine from "the Bob" again?
Keith Levenberg I've never aged a wine on synthetic cork long enough for any problems to show up, but some younger ones have made me nervous - the occasional cork sliding out so easily I wouldn't feel comfortable keeping the bottle on its side.
cliff I haven't aged many but ... I had the 2000 Texier Brézème Blanc a few times on release with positive results. I think the Doghead insisted they would get better with a little time; the last couple, earlier this year, tasted completely bland -- not oxidized, just flat, nada, zip.

I also bought more than I should of the 02 Christoffel Urz. Wurz. Kab., which has been variable. Was it the closure? I don't know. But, as Jonathon says, the fake corks don't seem to make a consistently strong seal.

If I could keep my hands off the Brun, I'd let you know. I would have bought more of the 05 Ancien with any other kind of closure.

Best,
Cliff

p.s. The first of the 01 Thomas-Labaille Busters I tried (last night) was corked.

metasapient
quote:
I haven't aged much wine under fake cork. I've had some tired things from Bonny Doon under the homogenous corks. I've had perfectly fine things from Ollivier, Brun and Texier under Neocork type things, but they were all recent releases.

I would be careful not to lump the different fake corks together, and I wonder how more recent versions of the fake corks differ.

I have not observed problems with reduction or SO2 under the fake closures, although I am not as sensitive to these issues as to others, nor am I as sensitive as some other tasters of my acquaintance.

OTOH, two thirds of my '97 Pepiere Busters have been corked, as were 4/6 or so of my older Clivi Brazans.


Joe, aren't reduction problems observed by the more sensitive among us mostly under screw caps?

Mirabiledictu
quote:
<snip>
Here's my take: 95% of the wine out there gets drunk within a year of production and is not intended to age. The stuff you buy at Trader Joe's or wherever. Get that stuff under plastic or Stelvins. Then the pressure on cork quality will totally change and we'll be back to an era of better cork. From what I understand the # of corked bottles has increased as quality of cork has gone down (this may be totally inaccurate).<snip>

Fine, but I feel non-cork bottles should cleary show that they are uncorked and not be capsuled as a corked bottle would. This is very deceiving. Show that the wine is not meant to age. Don't just 'assume' that the wine drinker should 'know', please don't cover up the fact they they are using plastic enclosures.

bad recent experiences:

Breton, Gallichets, 2003 - weird funky stuff going on, some noticeable volatile acidity

Brundlymayer, GV, Terassens, 2002 -
Clearly on the down slope of life, somewhat oxidized.

SFJoe On Joe's behalf, could we specify the corq variety? They are not all created equal.
Chris Coad
quote:
Breton, Gallichets, 2003 - weird funky stuff going on, some noticeable volatile acidity

The closure gets the blame for VA?

Brad L
quote:
quote:
<snip>
Here's my take: 95% of the wine out there gets drunk within a year of production and is not intended to age. The stuff you buy at Trader Joe's or wherever. Get that stuff under plastic or Stelvins. Then the pressure on cork quality will totally change and we'll be back to an era of better cork. From what I understand the # of corked bottles has increased as quality of cork has gone down (this may be totally inaccurate).<snip>

Fine, but I feel non-cork bottles should cleary show that they are uncorked and not be capsuled as a corked bottle would. This is very deceiving. Show that the wine is not meant to age. Don't just 'assume' that the wine drinker should 'know', please don't cover up the fact they they are using plastic enclosures.

bad recent experiences:

Breton, Gallichets, 2003 - weird funky stuff going on, some noticeable volatile acidity

Brundlymayer, GV, Terassens, 2002 -
Clearly on the down slope of life, somewhat oxidized.


Brad Liljequist

Mirabiledictu
quote:
quote:
Breton, Gallichets, 2003 - weird funky stuff going on, some noticeable volatile acidity

The closure gets the blame for VA?


No, but loose corks (and this was loose) can allow for other nasty aspects to occur in a wine.

Mjolnir I don't deliberately age anything that employs the molded synthetics. The one bottle I inadvertantly aged (a Hunter Valley semillon) was completely oxidized after four years.

As for the Neo/Noma-style extruded synthetics, I've had mixed but mostly negative results. The only whites I tried to age (to my knowledge) were the Texier Brézème Roussannes, and those were 100% over the hill after less than five years. Among the Texier reds, a quick scan shows about 60% dead, with the rest of mix of seemingly intact and tiring. (It's tough to say for sure without a control bottle, of course, but comparing one bottle to another, one can draw some limited conclusions.)

Among the dead and tiring reds, the flaw hasn't been overt oxidation (though there has been some in a few bottles), but rather the sort of "aroma scalping" one might expect from TCA. No nose, no palate, no finish...just a faded sort of tannin without anything else.

I can dig out the specific bottles if you really want, but I've posted on most of them here or on the old WLDG.

Anyway, I don't try to age these wines anymore. I'm not willing to take the chance. I haven't stopped buying them, however, unless I actively dislike the wine's youthful state.

T h o r  I v e r s o n
oenoLogic - the blog & the site
metasapient
quote:
Anyway, I don't try to age these wines anymore. I'm not willing to take the chance. I haven't stopped buying them, however, unless I actively dislike the wine's youthful state.

Not a pleasant thought, when you consider, for example, the quality of a rather unevolved CRB Cabernet '05

Russell Briggs The Behrens & Hitchcock Cabernets from Napa start of life oaky, alcoholic, and difficult to drink. After a few years in synthcork, they are all that with lots of VA and utterly impossible to drink. Not sure if the artificial cork is exaggerating an already bad situation or not.

BTW, am I the only one in Therapy who didn't know that Joe was selling his business? Is there a thread somewhere that explains why??

Mjolnir
quote:
Not a pleasant thought, when you consider, for example, the quality of a rather unevolved CRB Cabernet '05

Unfortunately, that's the very wine I was thinking of. I used to buy a lot. Under synthetic, a bottle or two.

T h o r  I v e r s o n
oenoLogic - the blog & the site
Mirabiledictu
quote:

BTW, am I the only one in Therapy who didn't know that Joe was selling his business? Is there a thread somewhere that explains why??

No, you are not alone. Of course, he *is* most secretive, except to the City Insider's Club, of which I, alas, am not member of.

Oliver Neocork-type are better than the 'plastic plug' molded type, but I don't think the manufacturers of either suggest using them in wines for aging. I have had a white wine lose freshness in less than 18 months with the plug type, which I particularly hate (hard to extract, harder still to reinsert).

The only advantage of these closures is that the producer doesn't have to buy a new piece of machinery to apply them, as they fit in the usual corker. (And the loss of TCA, of course.)

putnam100 Here's the kind of test you're looking for (I think):

In late 2003 (or early 2004) I opened a bottle of 1999 Texier Brezeme.

It was badly TCA tainted.

So I opened another bottle. I was surprised to find that the second bottle was closed with an artificial cork (like all of the Texier southern Rhones but unlike any other bottle of 1999 Brezeme). That bottle was NOT tainted with TCA.

Realizing I had an opportunity to compare two sound examples of the same wine with alternative closures, I opened a third bottle. As expected, it was closed with natural cork and was not TCA tainted.

The third bottle tasted clearly more vivid, focused, chewier and more lively than the second bottle. The second bottle did not taste oxidized in a familiar way. It wasn't pruny or burnt. Rather, it tasted dull and shapeless in comparison to the cork-finished bottle.

Furthermore, and concerning a different variety of artificial cork, I can report that bottles of Christoffel's 2002 (or it might have been 2003) "J. J." diverged in random patterns of oxidation (dull, faded acids). I assumed glass irregularities and resulting variations in the quality of the seal could account for that.

cliff
quote:
The second bottle did not taste oxidized in a familiar way. It wasn't pruny or burnt. Rather, it tasted dull and shapeless in comparison to the cork-finished bottle.

This is exactly the problem I've encountered, though I don't recall ever having the chance to do this sort of side-by-side test. Do you have any idea what might be going on? It's not that the wines have been oxidized; they just seem to flatten out and disappear.

L84Dinner
quote:
are you buying wine from "the Bob" again?

nah, just drinking through the remains of purchases from places best avoided

MartyL Did the 2001 Terres D'Orees Pinot Noir have an artificial cork? I seem to recall that it does but I'm not certain. What I do recall however is that a bottle I opened a few months ago was delicious on the first day and even better on the second.

I have a couple more bottles of that 2001 in the cellar and am interested to see what happens to it with a little more time.

MassWineGuy Why, Joe? And to whom?

quote:
As a guy in the trade, even though we are currently selling our company...


Joe Dressner
quote:
Why, Joe? And to whom?

quote:
As a guy in the trade, even though we are currently selling our company...



It didn't work out. Sorry for the false alarm.

CNSmith Joe;

Last night - Texier 2000 Cotes du Rhone Villages St Gervais.

Delicious. No flaws.

I trust you are well.

Best,
Chuck


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