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Long-Term Aging with Bottle Caps

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John Kimble

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I know this post could be put in several sub-forums and there have been several threads already about the topic...but I wanted to hone in on a specific aspect of the discussion.
Topic: Do red wines need the small oxygen permeation over time offered by corks in order to age properly (over 5-10+ years)? I know one poster (Luc) suggested cork usage is based on traditional methodology and there has not been a scientific or historical comparison when compared to aging potential in non-cork containers (screw caps, bottle caps). I have read several articles from South African, New Zealand and Australian wineries that are using screw caps exclusively and claim that the wines age better in a zero oxygen environment (though slower) and there is less chance of oxidation associated with cork degradation and temperature change (Chester Osborn from McLaren Vale, 2003 book Screwed for Good: The Case for Screw Caps on Red Wine, etc). All of the references I have found discuss screw caps and not beer bottling caps however. Before I start a very drawn out experiment on my next batch, I would like to know if anyone here has first hand experience long term aging with bottle caps or screw tops? If so how did the wine compare to a similar year/vintage that was corked?
Thank you for your help!!
 

Brettanomyces

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This isn't wine, but bottle caps in general are successfully with beers that are designed to age 10 years or more. Sometimes over durations that long, beer can exhibit a small loss of carbonation, indicating the seal is not perfect (holding significant pressure inside). Oxidation is a factor in aging beers this long.

What does that mean for wine? Well, oxygen ingress is nearly guaranteed, though I don't know of anyone that has measured it. Beyond that, modern screw caps for wine and standard crown caps may well behave differently.

Don't know if any of that is interesting or not, but I figured it can't hurt.
 

WellingtonToad

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I focus on "age properly". I am on the other side of the world so it may be difficult for you to do the trial. One of the Heathcote, Victoria, Australia wineries, "Peregrine Ridge", has for a number of years bottled the same wine in cork and screw cap. The result is that for the first four years there is very little difference in the wines. After that the wine under cork is noticeably more aged. They have a web site describing their trial.
I have tasted the two wines (2008 vintage) this year. Both were good but there was daylight between the two wines.
Personally, I liked the screw cap, but as a home winemaker almost all of the wine I drink is young.
It really is about what you want. I assume you like the aged taste in wine, therefore the way to go would be cork. Just remember you will need to cellar for around ten years.
Hope it helps.
 

stickman

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I don't have direct experience with metal closures, but I have looked at some of the public data. With screw caps and crown caps there are 10 different liner combinations each with their associated gas permeability. Corks have variable permeability depending on type, grade, etc., so there is much more uncertainty with cork than metal closures, but none of the closures (metal or cork) have zero permeability. Complicating matters is that the amount of oxygen a red wine can take is highly variable depending on the grapes, harvest conditions, wine making techniques, tannins etc. Also complicating things is that natural cork is not inert, cork contains oxygen in the cell structure but it also contains oxidizable substances like tannin. I've heard one discussion of the comparison of crown caps vs corks used for the Champagne industry; the 10yr study indicated that there were no differences between crown caps and corks for the first 4yrs, but after 4yrs the Champagne with corks showed less oxidation than crown caps.
 

Johnd

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I don't have direct experience with metal closures, but I have looked at some of the public data. I've heard one discussion of the comparison of crown caps vs corks used for the Champagne industry; the 10yr study indicated that there were no differences between crown caps and corks for the first 4yrs, but after 4yrs the Champagne with corks showed less oxidation than crown caps.
Having also done quite a bit of reading on the topic over the years, but not being able to cite the exact source, I recall reading that the transmission rate on real cork declines as time goes on, while the transmission rate of metal closures (in general) remains relatively constant over time. That would seem to support the findings of the Champagne industry study.
 

Johnd

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What about the idea of a synthetic Cork and then a bottle cap over it?
Can't really see why you'd put a bottle cap over a synthetic cork, the synthetic cork is sufficient for closing a bottle of wine..............
 

Brettanomyces

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To add insurance, so to speak? Some lambic producers do this.

I'm not vouching for the practice, as such, just providing a rationale.
 

John Kimble

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To minimize possible additional oxygen exposure due to temperature fluctuations, remove risk of bad cork or cap seal, etc. Insurance. They already have capping equipment and caps are very cheap. If I'm going to make the significant time investment and energy investment (I do not have a seller and move frequently due to being in the militar) aging the bottles in my aging chamber, I want backup assurance.
Can 750ml beer bottles that are made for caps fit a wine cork?
 

Brettanomyces

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Not sure. I imagine both would work fine. But if you go the Champagne bottle route, they're a whole lot cheaper at the link below.

https://labelpeelers.com/equipment/bottles/wine-bottles/champagne-green-750-ml-bottles/

It might take some trial and error to get the right cork and insertion method so the cap will go over top, so I'd suggest experimenting on an empty bottle first. These will take 29mm euro caps, too, so make sure you have the right caps and capper on hand.
 

Slappy

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I can’t speak for long term wine ageing however I do have some wine in beer bottle under crown seal approaching 3 years age. Some in 375ml bottles have definitely aged quicker than 750ml in my storage conditions and I see no reason why they won’t last 10 years with no issues. While I put a majority of my wine under cork now as I’m doing decent volumes and prefer to gift bottles under cork. I still put quite a bit in beer bottles as I have heaps of them to use and it saves money (a few cents a bottle vs about $1.50 for me to use new bottle + cork).
Just this week I have had the same wine bottled both ways. I would struggle to pick the difference between them at this point in time but would say the wine under cork aged slightly more.
I too am interested to see how things develop in time between the 2 closures but am not hung up on it. The best thing about being a home winemaker is being able to do little experiments like these. Give it a try and see how you like the results as the years go by.
 

John Kimble

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I am going to bottle each batch three ways. One regular corked, one bottle capped in a beer bottle and one in a champagne bottle with cap and bottle. I'm going to do three of each and plan to do a 10, 20 and 30 year test.
 
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