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06.23.2011  
 

Hogue Turns to Screwcap for All Wines

Study convinces major Washington producer to top entire production with screwcaps

 
by Paul Franson
 
 
Hogue Cellars screwcap
 
The results of a years-long study of wine closures led Hogue Cellars to put all its wines under screwcap.
Prosser, Wash.Hogue Cellars today announced results of long-term research conducted between 2005 and 2010 that confirmed Saranex-lined screwcaps as the ideal closure for preserving and aging The Hogue Cellars wines. As a result, it’s moving production of all its wines (some 570,000 cases yearly) to screwcap closures.

Saranex liners comprise layered polyethylene, which is slightly permeable to oxygen, meaning a desirable ratio of oxygen comes in contact with the wine to allow slow, steady development while maintaining freshness.

These screwcap closures were proven to maintain fruit flavors and aromas without significant reductive character compared to natural cork.

Saranex barriers are co-extruded multilayered films containing a layer of Saran resin integrally sandwiched between outer layers of polyolefins. Saranex films offer a balance of barrier properties, toughness, chemical resistance, softness, flexibility, attractive appearance and good economics in a single film structure. Saranex is made by Dow Specialty Packaging & Films.

Jordan Ferrier, research winemaker for Hogue’s parent company Constellation Wines U.S., presented the winery’s extensive study results today at the 62nd annual American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) Conference in Monterey, Calif., the leading technical conference for grape producers, technicians and researchers in North America.

The research conducted between 2005 and 2010 is the first at a large-scale winery to compare multiple closure types sealed on a commercial bottling line under controlled conditions and publicly share the findings.

“Until now, acceptable wine aging standards have been defined by the cork closure,” said Hogue Cellars director of winemaking Coman Dinn. “However, this study shows that wines aged under the right screwcap closure over five years were better preserved, aged well and were deemed the highest quality.”

Study details
The study was conducted in two parts, the first focused on analyzing the impact of closure type on Hogue Cellars 2004 Sauvignon (Fumé) Blanc—an oxygen-sensitive white wine. The second section was dedicated to understanding the effects of screwcap closures on the long-term age-ability of a 2004 Hogue Merlot and 2003 Genesis Merlot.

Ten closure types were evaluated for the Sauvignon (Fumé) Blanc and nine types for each of the two Merlots. White samples were evaluated at four-month intervals for three years and red wines evaluated at 12-month intervals for five years.

In total, more than 3,200 samples were tasted over the five-year span. Overall, the panel preferred closures that allowed slower oxygen ingress, and therefore held proper levels of free sulfur dioxide (a common preservative) in the bottle.

A team of seven trained winemaking and production experts at Hogue blind-tasted and assessed each of the wines, with specific insights as follows:

•    Wines under aluminum and tin-lined screwcap closures showed reductive wine qualities or flinty characters, a smoky, gunpowder smell or taste.
•    Wines sealed with synthetic corks oxidized more rapidly than other samples in the set.
•    Wine sealed with an experimental alternative polymer liner exhibited dried fruit or oxidative characters.
•    Wines sealed under a screwcap with a Saranex liner held bright fruit tastes and aromas, showed steady, consistent oxygen exchange and preservation of free sulfur dioxide.
•    High quality natural cork showed signs of fruit preservation and steady oxygen ingress, but with great bottle-to-bottle variation and inconsistency.

In summary, wines aged under Saranex-lined screwcaps tasted better and offered better results than aluminum or tin-lined screwcaps or synthetic closures, and eliminated any risk of TCA or taint that can occur using traditional cork.

This was Hogue’s second screwcap study. The winery’s first study, released in 2004, compared natural cork, synthetic closures and screwcaps, and found that wines bottled under screwcap were cleanest and best retained fruit flavors.

As a result of those findings, Hogue moved 70% of its production to screwcap closures. These latest findings expanded on the initial study by measuring the effects of each closure’s ageability over time, based on the level and rate of oxygen ingress. As a result of this second study, Hogue Cellars will move 100% of its production— including its premium-tier Genesis and Reserve wines—to screwcap closures with Saranex liners. Starting with the 2009 vintage, all wines in The Hogue Cellars portfolio will be sold under this closure type.

“It all comes down to quality. We want consumers to know that when they purchase a bottle of The Hogue Cellars wine, whether it’s to enjoy that night or in five years, the wine in the bottle will be fresh because it’s been sealed with the best closure currently on the market,” Dinn said. “Our studies prove that high quality white and red wines can be sealed and preserved with screwcaps, and we believe that our extensive research and proven results will help to positively shift the perception of screwcap closures with consumers.”

Founded in 1982 by Mike and Gary Hogue as the 19th bonded winery in the state of Washington, Hogue Cellars is in the Columbia Valley and is now the fourth -largest producing winery in Washington. It is part of Constellation Wines. For more information visit: hoguecellars.com.

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