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Randall - screwcaps in America

15 Jul 2009 by Jancis Robinson

Yesterday I visited the new/old Bonny Doon winery in Santa Cruz, California, to taste the weird and sometimes rather wonderful. (More about that later.)  Over lunch in a tasting pod made out of old uprights next to the new café there, proprietor Randall Grahm, an arch proponent of screwcaps, waxes philosophical (what else is new?) about this alternative stopper's lack of progress in the US market. Other comments from assistant winemaker Jillian Phoenix (née Johnson) and Burke Owens, director of communications. Feel free to add comments below.



Ironical too that on a recent trip to the US (almost specifically to taste Syrah), I found many of the less exposed undulating sites, on the limestone side of the equation in Paso, to offer the most aromatic and finessed-dare I say "Rhone-like"- expressions of American Syrah. I also found great value in Cline's "Cool Climate" rung, personality if not some grit in all time faves from Edmunds Saint John and was duly impressed by Radio Coteau's Syrahs. This being said, despite the Aussie caricatures that Randall refers to-presumably the behemoths of the Barossa-I did not taste wines that were aromatically exotic, of variety and with the seamless structural poise of the likes of Castagna or Giaconda from Victoria, for example. Many were overripe and sought a modicum of elegance in a bell pepper note reminiscent of "cool" clime Australians from 20 years ago.

29 Jul 2009 01:42 by Ned Goodwin

Whilst agreeing with Randall's general comments on syrah/shiraz he has forgotten a number of regions which produce well balanced vinous wine from this great variety ; in NSW and VIctoria, in the Cape and Sicily to pick 4 straight off. For example I would like to introduce him to some top Hunter valley examples where alcohol levels average 13.5 and the savoury earthy characters are redolent of place. In James Hallidays' opinion, and in my own experience, these wines can age remarkably well arriving (after 20 years or so) at a similar place to the best of the Northern Rhone. On screwcaps the AWRI has a collection of wines aged under these closures. Robin Tedder /

18 Jul 2009 10:41 by robin tedder

A wonderful thread, this one, which will be settled in the next generation as great wine in screw-cap bottles age.  Does anyone know of a winemaker who's willing to experiment with wine from the same barrel, half bottled with cork and half with screw caps?

17 Jul 2009 17:26 by John Sinton

Screwcaps DO enjoy widespread - certainly prejudice-free - acceptance in the U.S., at least when compared with France or Italy. To amplify Jamie's point, though, the myth that seems to have been propagated by a wide segment of the wine industry (and I won't point in the direction of any particular hemisphere) had at least three parts: a) there is such a thing as the perfect closure, defined as one that preserves the wine exactly as it is before bottling; b) the perfect seal is oxygen impermeable; c) the perfect seal will be delivered by a screwcap closure. None of this was nor is true. Now there is widespread recognition that the picture is more complicated. Each closure has its advantages and disadvantages, and more importantly each influences the way in which the wine evolves. The traditional maturation of a wine under cork is not anaerobic and some degree of permeability to oxygen is now gererally held to be critical to positive wine evolution, among the reasons for this being the enhanced the risk of reduction, which is a problem for screwcaps at their current forms. The principle motivation - and, heaven knows, a strong one - for deserting corks is and remains TCA taint. This is the reason Randall moved away from corks (I used to sell his wines when I was a merchant)- at first in the direction of synthetic stoppers. Later it became evident that screwcaps were superior to plastic stoppers (at least as they existed a decade ago), so Randall - like so many other vintners - moved to screwcaps. He views that as having been a smart move, and it probably was in the noses of his customers, as well as all things considered. But this does not mean that "perfect closure" has been or can be scientifically defined; that the perfect closure would be oxygen impermeable; nor that screwcaps are completely unproblematic. I write this even though as a person who makes his living from reviewing wines, I am certainly disposed toward any wine I see with a screwcap. The chances of its having "reductive issues" are in my experience markedly lower than those of a cork being TCA-tainted ; and I am characteristically tasting wines that have been in bottle for at most 6 months, before any questions regarding long-term viability of or experience with a given sort of seal can be factored into the tasting note itself.

16 Jul 2009 05:07 by David Schildknecht

Ryan, Randall himself says in the segment that screwcapped wines do age in a totally different way. For some wines, this may be better. To suggest that the wine is no different is actually a dangerous (and incorrect) simplification. Also, there's the issue of the liner. The tin/saran liner is totally different than the saranex-only liner, and both are widely used. 

15 Jul 2009 23:15 by Jamie Goode

Seriously had thought that screw cap penetration in the US was much higher. People like them, once they realize that the wine is no different.

15 Jul 2009 18:30 by Ryan Opaz

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