Particle Corks on Cameron Hughes wines?

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Udo Hoerhold
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Particle Corks on Cameron Hughes wines?

#1 Post by Udo Hoerhold » January 27th, 2010, 3:04 pm

So, I just opened a bottle of the Cameron Hughes Lot 164, and I was a little surprised to find it finished with a particle cork. I've only seen them a few times before, and always on low-end wine. The composite corks I've seen before have also had a solid cork layer on the bottom, but this one is particle all the way through. I wasn't expecting to see a wine that is supposed to be "from an 85 dollar program" finished this way. I know that Lot 49 wasn't finished this way, and I don't remember seeing them on other CH wines I've had, do most of the other CH wines use these corks?

Does anyone have experience with these? Are there any issues aging bottles with these corks?

[edit: added name to subject in the hopes of catching Cameron's eye]
Last edited by Udo Hoerhold on January 28th, 2010, 5:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Particle Corks?

#2 Post by David Strange » January 28th, 2010, 3:58 am

Hello Udo,

In my experience, and experiments carried out at a friend's winery show, that particle corks increase the likelihood of a wine being corked and make wines age unreliably (some fall apart very quickly). They can also leak more easily. I don't know the wine you found this monstrosity of a cork in but if you paid a reasonable amount for it I'd be vexed that someone was giving a decent wine such a cheap and nasty stopper. Next time you see the winemaker give him/her a hard stare.

Cheers,
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Re: Particle Corks?

#3 Post by Brandon Tai » January 28th, 2010, 4:45 am

David, what if you knew the life expectancy of the wines was sub 10 years? Would it be fine for an enclosure or would you still foresee problems after 5 or so years? What about ageability in the very short term(1-2 years)?

Also wondering if all particle corks are equal...
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Re: Particle Corks?

#4 Post by David Strange » January 28th, 2010, 5:34 am

Brandon Tai wrote:David, what if you knew the life expectancy of the wines was sub 10 years? Would it be fine for an enclosure or would you still foresee problems after 5 or so years? What about ageability in the very short term(1-2 years)?

Also wondering if all particle corks are equal...
Hi Brandon,

I wouldn't be keeping a wine bottled with a particle cork for more than five years (if that). Indeed, I'd be more than a little perturbed if a cheapskate winery used such a cork for a wine they claim would age longer than that. I've seen particle corks leaking (in perfect cellar conditions) when wines have been stored for less than a year. Composite corks are a cheap and nasty bottle stopper and should only be used in cheap (and nasty) wines that no one will ever age. I suppose if you want your wine to mature (more accurately, fall apart) quickly then you could try ageing bottles with composite corks but really, seriously, nothing meant for ageing should have one.

There is one type of composite cork of which we can approve, those used in sparkling wines. This is only because the particle-composed section of the cork is not in contact with the wine; there is at least one layer of proper cork (the mirror) between the wine and the composite cork (some really flash Champagnes have three layers of the mirror cork).

Cheers,
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Re: Particle Corks?

#5 Post by Reese Ferry » January 28th, 2010, 5:34 am

Hi Udo,

Looks like it might be a DIAM cork...

http://www.diam-cork.com/proof/client-list/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I'm not an expert but it seems like the DIAM goes way beyond a cheap composite cork.

Reese

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Re: Particle Corks?

#6 Post by Brandon Tai » January 28th, 2010, 5:45 am

if it is indeed a Diam cork then I do feel way better about it :) Thanks for that post
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Re: Particle Corks?

#7 Post by Udo Hoerhold » January 28th, 2010, 5:53 am

David Strange wrote:Hello Udo,

In my experience, and experiments carried out at a friend's winery show, that particle corks increase the likelihood of a wine being corked and make wines age unreliably (some fall apart very quickly). They can also leak more easily. I don't know the wine you found this monstrosity of a cork in but if you paid a reasonable amount for it I'd be vexed that someone was giving a decent wine such a cheap and nasty stopper. Next time you see the winemaker give him/her a hard stare.

Cheers,
David.
David, thanks for the input. The wine in question is from Cameron Hughes. He does bottlings and blendings from purchased wine, similar to negociant bottlings, usually offering them at a low price for the quality. In the past, most of his bottlings have been mid-range quality and sold in the $10-$15 price range. However, because of the quality of the 2007 vintage, and the large amount of wine from that vintage available for purchase, he's put out several lots at the $20-$22 price point. These are indeed good wines, and great values at that price point, but they're bigger than many of his previous offerings, and I think would do well with some time in the bottle, which is why I was concerned. The notes on the Cameron Hughes website suggest that this particular wine can be held through 2029, but I wonder whether 20 years under that kind of closure is wise.
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Re: Particle Corks on Cameron Hughes wines?

#8 Post by ChrisBeacham » January 28th, 2010, 5:56 am

I'm interested too. I've emailed Cameron to get his input.
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Re: Particle Corks?

#9 Post by David Strange » January 28th, 2010, 5:57 am

Reese Ferry wrote:Hi Udo,

Looks like it might be a DIAM cork...
<snip>
Reese
Hi Reese,

Interesting, thanks for the link. I'll ask my Burgundian chum if he included this in his experiments. If such a cork can really get rid of the corkiness problems that so often dog wines with composite corks it'd be well worth a look. I still wonder about age-ability with them, more research needed!

Cheers,
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Re: Particle Corks?

#10 Post by Udo Hoerhold » January 28th, 2010, 5:58 am

Brandon Tai wrote:if it is indeed a Diam cork then I do feel way better about it :) Thanks for that post
Are these considered better than the average composite cork?

I edited the title of this thread in the hopes that maybe Cameron would notice and chime in.
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Re: Particle Corks on Cameron Hughes wines?

#11 Post by Brandon Tai » January 28th, 2010, 5:58 am

Looking at the 3 corks from last night. One looks like particle cork, but does have the mirror whole cork on both the top & bottom. I'm assuming it was the "older?" Lot 121, but not really sure since the corks got mixed up. The other two corks look like the Diam, and I'm assuming these were on the 143 & 164.
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Re: Particle Corks?

#12 Post by Brandon Tai » January 28th, 2010, 6:01 am

Udo Hoerhold wrote:
Brandon Tai wrote:if it is indeed a Diam cork then I do feel way better about it :) Thanks for that post
Are these considered better than the average composite cork?

I edited the title of this thread in the hopes that maybe Cameron would notice and chime in.
I would say much better than average composite cork, but only from what I've read. No personal experience. Doing a search on "particle cork" "aglomerate cork" and "diam" here and on the (other) forum, you can get a lot of information. Previously a big problem with particle cork was a very high incidence of TCA taint, which the DIAM seems to have solved. Ageability, however, I don't really know. Again, I have no personal experience with any TCA taint with the DIAM or ageability, I'm just regurgitating what I read. There's a lot of information on the DIAM website, but of course they're not going to put up info about how awful the ageability is if there's a problem. :)
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Re: Particle Corks?

#13 Post by G. D y e r » January 28th, 2010, 10:26 am

David Strange wrote:Hello Udo,

In my experience, and experiments carried out at a friend's winery show, that particle corks increase the likelihood of a wine being corked and make wines age unreliably (some fall apart very quickly). They can also leak more easily. I don't know the wine you found this monstrosity of a cork in but if you paid a reasonable amount for it I'd be vexed that someone was giving a decent wine such a cheap and nasty stopper. Next time you see the winemaker give him/her a hard stare.

Cheers,
David.
I think the Diams are an altogether different beast than the typical composite cork. You should read some of Jamie Goode's writing on closures, because I think you are lumping these in with the many inferior corks used for plonk. While I don't know if the mechanical properties are as good as a regular cork, it is fairly well accepted that regular corks do have wildly variable degrees of oxygen transmission. I've seen 3 orders of magnitude (a factor of 1000) cited! At least with a carefully engineered composite cork the oxygen transmission should be controllable and repeatable. The other improvement is a virtual elimination of TCA taint using a rather awesome process involving super critical CO2.

Maybe these are not as good as Stelvin closures, which on balance are likely the best closure despite refusal of traditionalists to consider their use. And I am not sure that I fully trust they are as good as the best regular cork when it comes to long-term aging. They should be vastly superior to those plastic corks that oxidize the wine almost immediately. For wines like Cameron Hughes' they seem to be the right tool. I think many of his wines are intended to be consumed within a few years. While the quality is good, we are not generally talking about 20+ year wines (these are riper CA wines, generally). Consistency is probably more important.
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Re: Particle Corks on Cameron Hughes wines?

#14 Post by Cameron Hughes » January 28th, 2010, 2:12 pm

Hi All,

Thanks to Chris for alerting me to the discussion.

Having bottled 175 wines from appellations around the globe over the last 6 years you can imagine our interest and expertise in corks is high.

The corks we are using are Neutrocork's from the world's largest cork supplier, Amorim. It is made using a similar process to the DIAM and is, effectively, autoclaved high-quality cork granules rebuilt with food grade (read: neutral) polymer. We started with DIAM's but moved to Amorim because their supply chain and QC are world class and their SOP's have pretty much been adopted across most cork supply chains. They are also available with consistent pricing around the globe.

I can buy regular cork for about the same price but choose not too. Why? Guaranteed no TCA or other objectionable compounds or phenols, incredible side-wall pressure to ensure consistent seal/no leakage, and consistent oxygen transfer rate. Wines have been aging beautifully under these closures for over 10 years but as you can imagine the real aging potential and final results of 20 years of aging are still down the road. Having used corks of this type for over three years now I am very confident in their performance across a broad range of wines. As a side note, I have never once seen one of these closures leak beyond 1-2MM.

Udo - to answer your question, I am confident you can age these wines for 10 plus years in your cellar. In fact, we believe you will have a better result, or certainly a more consistent result, than if you were to age under regular cork with varying OTR's. After the 10 years I expect once yearly QC reports.

Cameron

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Re: Particle Corks on Cameron Hughes wines?

#15 Post by David Strange » January 28th, 2010, 2:13 pm

Cameron,

Many thanks for your post, it is always good to see a producer who has taken the time to work out the best closure for their wines. Sounds like you've hit upon the right one.

Cheers,
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Re: Particle Corks on Cameron Hughes wines?

#16 Post by Udo Hoerhold » January 28th, 2010, 2:38 pm

Cameron,
Thanks for chiming in. I'm glad to hear that these are high-quality corks. From what I've tasted of the 07's so far, I don't think they're going to last in my cellar for anywhere near 20 years [welldone.gif] , but I think they could use 2-5 years, and it sounds like these closures should be up to the task.

If not, I'll be sure to let you know. [basic-smile.gif]
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Re: Particle Corks on Cameron Hughes wines?

#17 Post by ChrisBeacham » January 28th, 2010, 4:44 pm

Cameron Hughes wrote:Hi All,

Thanks to Chris for alerting me to the discussion.

Cameron
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Re: Particle Corks on Cameron Hughes wines?

#18 Post by Cameron Hughes » January 28th, 2010, 5:26 pm

ChrisBeacham wrote:
Cameron Hughes wrote:Hi All,

Thanks to Chris for alerting me to the discussion.

Cameron
I'm thinking a lifetime 20% discount on all future CH purchases. [dance-clap.gif]
keep dreamin buddy [rofl.gif]

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