The dirtiest little secret, within the wine industry, long a terrible fact is the”corkage factor.” It has been estimated that up to 20% of the wines in circulation are contaminated rendering them undrinkable. The reason for this high rate of loss is the material used to seal a wine bottle: cork. Cork has long been the traditional material used in the wine industry. Cork is cheap and it is romantic in it’s opening. Cork also represents history within a industry steeped in tradition.
Unfortunately the worst case scenario is when a collector or wine fanatic saves aka “lays down” a bottle for 5+years. I have done just this with a bottle of Caymus Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon from the legendary 1994 Napa Valley vintage. At release this bottle retailed for $100. Currently this wine sells at retail for between $250 and $400 depending upon the source. Scarier yet is the fact that on one restaurant wine list a bottle of 1994 Caymus Special Select was selling for $650! Consequently this bottle is meant for my upcoming birthday. . . if tragedy strikes and this bottle is tainted, it would be a loss on 3 levels: time to age, cost at release, cost to replace present day. I could never afford to own a replacement!
All of this has changed with the introduction of Ed Sbragia’s “Resealable Glass Stopper.” Sbragia, the legendary wine making master for Berringer Vineyards for so many years, has introduced the “new cork” at his new winery Sbragia Family Vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley region of northern Sonoma County.
In a fun and interesting article written by Bill Daley, in”The Stew” Chicago Tribune’s wine and food blog, a brief history of alternative “stoppers” is explored. Daleys’ examination of the stoppers is both accurate and a good description of what to expect for those first timers.
Consequently a new era of taint free wines is a true possibility. Although Sbragia is not the first vintner to use glass resealable stoppers, he is the most prominent and powerful winery owner to promote them. This fact alone may create a shift in perception amongst winery owners and the public. Hopefully bottles, coddled and stored with loving care, saved for that special occasion will no longer bring with them the ultimate let down-another tainted disaster!