To cork or not to cork.. New Zealand knows!

Dear Wine Ladies, Why is it that most of the wines from New Zealand all seem to have screw caps, whether white or red? Do the red wines not need the cork closure so they can breathe and age properly? David Houston, Texas Dear David, Indeed, New Zealand is the number one market for screw cap closure with 98% of their wines, as you mentioned red or white being the closure of choice. We recently spoke with visiting winemaker, viticulturist and General Manager of Winegrowers of Ara (viticultural zone in Marlborough) Dr. Damian Martin, and posed a similar question. What were the driving forces behind New Zealand becoming the leader in cork closure for their wines. The Dr, he has a Doctorate in Oenology and Viticultural Science from the University of Bordeaux, had this to say “ with New Zealand, being so distant and furthest away from Portugal, the world’s foremost producer of cork, we tended to receive the lower quality corks. Freshness of cork was also an issue for us”. Mr. Martin went on to explain that the high incidence of TCA (trichloroanisole) the compound responsible for cork taint was also a driving factor toward the industry move to screw cap. Wines affected by cork taint are often described as having an off-putting, moldy wet cardboard character. As to whether New Zealand reds might require the cork closure for proper development and long term aging, Mr. Martin explained that the style of New Zealand wines are very much about the “trueness and brightness” of the fruit, which screw cap closures are best suited to. With Pinot Noir being New Zealand’s signature red, inherent in the grape variety and in the style of the wines, long term aging is not one of the winemaker’s objectives. This, in contrast of course to the big Napa Valley Cabernets or Bordeaux blends.

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