If you have followed Patton Valley for a decade or more, you know that we started converting our wines from cork closures to screw-caps, with 30% of the 2004′s, 65% of the 2005′s, and 95% of the 2006′s (everything except the reserve Lorna-Marie) getting screw-caps. In 2007, we felt confident that transitioning our entire lineup to Stelvin caps was the best way to consistently preserve the quality of the wine we work so hard to create.
Through the years we have checked in on these wines, conducting tastings to evaluate how identical wines-in every way other that the closure with which each was finished-have aged and developed over time. The results of these tastings have always reaffirmed our decision, but recently we wanted to try it again.
In late March, we conducted a blind tasting using our 2004 Patton Valley Estate Pinot noir, wine that was nearly ten years old. The sample was small, but of 6 tasters, 5 people preferred the wine under screw-cap versus the same exact wine bottled using cork. A key feature noted by all of the tasters (even the one who voted for the cork-version in the end) was the freshness and brightness of the screw-cap bottle. Both wines had matured beautifully, with a lovely integration of the wine’s structural components with the soft, luscious red fruits usually found in Patton Valley Pinots, yet the screw-cap bottle was more vibrant, with years of drinking pleasure still ahead of it. Several tasters noted that the cork-version was showing a little tiredness, with some more funky aromatics, seemingly further along in its maturation, though the one taster who ended up voting for the cork-version (in a close decision) liked some of the funkiness of that wine (there is an odd-ball in every crowd).
Having conducted numerous comparative tastings of the two closure systems for this wine over the years, it has become very clear that the screw-cap closure is superior to cork. Not only is cork-taint eliminated (the primary driver for using a screw-cap), but wines mature absolutely beautifully, over a somewhat longer period than do wines finished with a cork. We took a risk in 2004 going to screw-caps, fearing that our customers might be scared away due to the prevailing perception at the time that only cheap, simple wines used screw-caps. Yet our bet has paid off; screw-caps are clearly better, delivering a much more consistent and age-worthy product, and we are grateful to our customers for supporting us along the way.