Archive for the ‘Wine closures’ Category

Eagle eyes!

November 27th, 2017

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Browsing on the web the other day I noticed that a delicious new dish that had been added to the menu of a restaurant here in Pontevedra. (A restaurant that we sometimes frequent and owned by one of our very favourite chefs, Xosé Cannas). Thai prawns served, I believe, with a peanut sauce, although the photo on the net didn’t actually specify this. Perhaps not the most traditional Galician dish, but mouth-watering just the same.

On much closer examination I said to myself “hang on a minute, the cork in this photo looks exactly like ours”, and by simply zooming in a bit, I confirmed that it was. Maybe a bit of subliminal advertising, but only if you have very good eyesight. Castro Martin Family Estate – great with Thai prawns served at the Ultramar in Pontevedra!

Oxford knows best!

October 26th, 2017

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One of the questions that we are sometimes asked is – why don’t we use screwcap for sealing our our wines? There are actually a couple of answers to this question. Closures have always been a subject of great interest to me, something that I have studied very closely for many years now. The fact that we now use a synthetic closure (with zero carbon footprint) was not a choice that was made casually, perhaps driven by cost – it was a long-studied and carefully considered decision. Indeed, with our current synthetic closure we know that we can, to some extent, now control the evolution of our wines (or at the very least, influence it’s shelf life). Not forgetting, of course, that evolution will also be determined by how the wine is stored….

A recent study, by Oxford University no less, is claiming that perhaps a cork is the right choice – that wines closed with a cork actually do taste better than those under screwcap. A very bold, and perhaps somewhat contentious claim! Having said that, they do qualify this by saying that the ‘ceremony’ of extracting the cork might have something to do with this. That subliminally this process adds a little ‘romance’ to the wine drinking experience – perhaps adding to the anticipation? One of the researching professors added “Our senses are intrinsically linked – what we hear, see and feel has a huge effect on what we taste”. They also went on to say that corked bottles were more likely to induce a “celebratory mood”, and we all know that our mood, surroundings and the company that we keep can all influence our perception of a wine.

My final comment is that we are very happy with our current choice of closure, as are the majority of our customers. This is rarely an area for complaint which pretty much supports the old adage “If it ain’t broken, then don’t fix it”! 

ClosuresIt was not too many years ago that popular belief pretty much dictated that albariño needed to be enjoyed whilst it was young, in it’s infancy, almost as a ‘primeur’ wine. Since that time (and especially here at Castro Martin), we have been working non-stop to educate our customers that this idea is simply a myth. However, in order to improve and preserve the longevity of any wine there are still many factors that need to be taken into consideration. Of all the different factors that can influence ageing potential some of the most important/obvious include:

  • The structure of the wine itself – that it is well balanced and vinified accordingly (for example, extended lees ageing will add longevity, whereas rapid fermentation at warmer temperature will often produce short-lived wines).
  • That it is bottled correctly, and protected as far as possible against oxidation – this includes the correct levels of sulphur and most importantly the type and quality of closure used.
  • That the wine is transported and stored correctly, preferably in a cool, dark cellar.

As you may already know we take the business of closures very seriously, not just from the point of view of avoiding taint, but perhaps more importantly, in order to ‘manage’ the ageing process. There are actually several types of closures on the market these days that allow contolled levels of OTR (Oxygen Transmission Rate) which enables the wine maker to maintain at least some degree of control over the speed at which their wine will evolve (assuming that at least some of the steps mentioned above have been followed). Of course, there can be no absolute guarantees attached to this idea, and then added to this equation is the experience and/or personal taste of the individual consumer. Some will prefer to drink their wine fresh and fruity, whereas other might prefer to wait for wine to mature, developing slightly more complex ‘secondary’ aromas and flavours.

I should mention that on our recent trip to the States (in Spring 2017), many customers were actually blown away by our 2013 and 2014 albariños. Not specially selected cuvées, simply wines with a bit of bottle age tasted straight ‘off the shelf’.

As this video explains, grape producers and wine makers invest an enormous amount of time and money (not to mention the love and attention), to grow the best fruit and make the best wine, and then entrust it’s entire future to one very small, and yet vital element – the closure. They say that a chain is only as string as it’s weakest link, but in the wine business we should be saying that our wine is only as good as the closure that we chose. So why do some people try to save a few cents by using a mediocre quality cork? The future of your wine depends on it!

Here at Castro Martin we have invested an enormous amount of time and effort in studying this, by testing various types of Nomacorc closures, and then monitoring carefully the almost imperceptible amounts of oxygen that penetrate the cork (using NomaSense equipment). Each type of closure allows different levels of OTR (Oxygen Transmission Rate), and by making various tests we can actually chose the perfect closure for our wine. The wine maker is, in effect, given a further opportunity to actually have an important influence over how their wine evolves (assuming that other storage conditions are constant).

I think this video explains the story quite well.

Corc evolution

September 4th, 2015

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Bio ClosureThere has always been a certain stigma attached to synthetic closures, not necessarily because of the way they perform, but usually more to do with the way they look. Don’t worry, at this point I’m not going to launch into one of my long lectures about the pro’s and con’s of our corcs (with a ‘c’), but merely wanted to point out that their evolution continues.

As you will probably know, the Nomacorc product that we already use is the World’s first zero carbon footprint wine closure, made entirely from renewable, plant-based polymers. They are also manufactured using 100% renewable energy and the process uses only minimal amounts of water, making them ideal for sustainable wine producers.

To address the problem of their appearance Nomacorc have now released a new design, that we have just used for the first time this week. Today’s picture shows the old design on the right, and our modified, new design on the left. My guess is that without giving our new corc a very close inspection the vast majority of consumers will not even notice that it’s synthetic!

Select Bio 2Finally, the big news of 2014 (so far) – we have just started to bottle some of our 2013 wines with a completely new breed of synthetic closure – NOMACORC SELECT BIO – THE WORLD’S FIRST ZERO CARBON FOOTPRINT CLOSURE. 

We have been using the Select Series for some time now, and this new Select Bio is just the latest product in the evolution of the series. The material used to make this closure includes sugar cane, plant based polymers, meaning that it comes from 100% renewable raw materials. Of course using a plant based source also helps to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, and the canes used are cultivated in a socially responsible way – having no impact on the food supply chain. Plant based polymers are also perfect for re-cycling in the normal plastic waste streams.

As if all this isn’t enough the Select Bio is also manufactured using 100% renewable energy – closures simply don’t come with ‘greener’ credentials than this one!

I should finish by saying that this new Bio product has all the usual benefits of our previous Nomacorc closure, being taint free and enabling consistent bottle ageing. Oh, and by the way, I forgot to mention that we are the very first Bodega in the whole of Spain to be using this new technology!

The HelixForget the screw cap, toss aside your vino-lok and discard your corkscrew – here comes the Helix! The latest is a long line of revolutionary wine closures that will change your life (or so the manufacturers would have you believe). The lengthy debate about the most effective wine closure rumbles on and may never reach a definitive conclusion, or at least during my lifetime. The latest product to be thrown into the fray is a cork closure known as the Helix. Its shape is similar to the re-usable type of sherry or port stopper, except that it is made entirely from cork, without the plastic layer on top. The apparent advantage of this is that it can be removed by hand, with a simple twist, and without the need for a corkscrew. The cork has a spiral groove and the neck of the bottle has an internal thread which marry together to provide a seal as the cork is added.

The closure itself is a microagglomerate, in other words natural cork which is ground down into small fragments, cleaned by a steam-based process to remove or reduce the possibility of cork taint, and then glued back together (although the manufacturer will tell you that it is not really glue at all). So, in effect, the composition of this new product is a  technology that already exists, the only difference being the way that it can be removed from the bottle. You could say that it’s really a screw cap that’s made from agglomerated cork! My guess is that it has been designed to satisfy those who don’t approve of screw cap but will still be able to claim that they are using a ‘natural’ cork.

It will not be available for another year or two, but from what I have read so far, I have no immediate plans to make a change……

Posted in Wine closures

Select Bio Bottle2Over recent weeks you may have noticed that I have been writing (with a certain amount of passion) about one of my ‘pet’ subjects….. wine closures. You may also know we spend a huge amount of time and energy researching the subject, and as I mentioned only the other day our supplier, Nomacorc, was about to make a significant addition to their product range.

The news is that they are about to start making the world’s first closure made with zero carbon footprint! Whilst we do not qualify as a bio-dynamic producer we do take a number of measures both in the vineyard and the bodega to reduce our level of  ‘intervention’ to the bare minimum. We also re-cycle as many materials as we possibly can (please see the ‘environment’ and ‘green policy’ pages on our website for more details). In the packaging of our wines we also use an ‘Eco’ bottle, and from next year this will almost certainly be supplemented by this new ‘Bio’ closure (assuming that our supplier offers us a competitive price). The new ‘Bio’ closures will also be 100 percent recyclable and will be made using renewable, plant-based materials.

Remembering that our carton already comprises a high percentage of re-cycled paper, perhaps the only thing we lack now is a wine label hand-knitted by Angela’s mother (using only the natural wool from our own sheep of course)!