Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vino-Lok

The other night we opened a bottle of the 2007 Weinhof Scheu Grauer Burgunder Kabinett Trocken, $16, Savio Soares Selections, a wine made from grapes perhaps better known to most of us as Pinot Gris. Imagine my surprise when there was no cork, no Stelvin (screw cap) closure either, no synthetic cork, but a little glass top that was vacuum sealed on the bottle. A little jiggling and it came out easily enough. And unlike a synthetic cork, I could easily re-seal the bottle using the same glass top.This thing is great, I think. Easy to open, easy to re-seal, much classier than a screw-cap, in my opinion. I wonder if allows a bit more oxygen than a screw-cap does to penetrate the seal? Anyway, I have never seen this kind of seal before. A little bit of searching the interwebs reveals that this alternative closure is called a Vino-Seal or a Vino-Lok. I prefer Vino-Lok, as it reminds me of a 1980's rapper's nom de guerre. In fact, I think that some one like Lyle Fass should seriously consider changing his name to Vino-Lok. That aside, I had never even heard of this. Apparently it's made by Alcoa, the aluminum production giant. And it costs more than other alternative seals.Like the screw cap, I'm sure this is meant for young-drinking wines, not the cellar-worthy stuff. I really liked it - the feel of opening and closing it, the look of it, the weight of it in my hand. And the wine was excellent too, which I'm attributing purely to the closure. Anyone else out there run into Vino-Lok? I don't mean the MC, I mean the alternative wine closure. Thoughts?

14 comments:

elwood said...

Brezza started using this for their entry-level barbera a few years ago. The label featured a drawing of a cork, if I recall correctly.

I've asked a few winemakers about this, and they seem to like it. It does cost more money than stelvin enclosures, but I expect to see more of this in the future.

In terms of oxygen, I don't know of any studies.

genevelyn said...

I agree with your tactile analysis of these stoppers. I have had some Steininger gruner with this closure--lovely stuff--fresh, creamy stuff.
http://www.kwselection.com/wineries/steininger.html

Word to the wise--the stopper looses its tight seal once broken--drink up!

Bertrand said...

I saw that in Israel for the first time. Seemed great to me. Makes re-use easy, I would use that for home bottling.

Howard said...

Schloss Vollrads, in the Rheingau region of Germany, began using Vino-Lok more than five years ago. The stopper was startlingly attractive then and remains so today. As a longtime fan of Schloss Vollrads rieslings, I've often stored them in my refrigerator horizontally, with nary an accident. They reliably keep the whites fresh and fruity; the seal has never lost its grip. On and off I have written about Vino-Loks in recent years and, when I last reconsidered them some time ago (memory doesn't deliver the date), inquiries turned up no downsides to consumers except, perhaps, the small extra cost they probably have built into the price of the wine. They are so pretty to look at that I kept one on my desk until it was spirited away one dark and stormy night by a leprechaun.
--- Howard G. Goldberg

peter said...

I like these too, but don't see them very often. They're also recyclable, which is nice.

Jack Everitt said...

I like them! I've found them twice on Domaine Weinbach bottles so far.

David McDuff said...

You really do need to drink more German wine, Neil ;-)

I first encountered Vino-lok closures during an early 2004 visit with Klaus-Peter Keller. Keller, who was doing trial runs with the new closure at that time, opted against (don't know why). But their use is by far widest spread in Germany.

I'm generally happy with the closure. It's aeguably more elegant than a screwcap and definitely preferable, for me anyway, to plastic corks.

I've only heard one winemaker speak out against them, for the very reason you mention -- higher than desirable oxygen permeability. But I've yet to see any hard data to back that up. I have a couple of bottles of vino-lok sealed Rieslings from a favorite producer of mine stashed away as an experiment in aging. Time will tell....

UCDWino said...

I'm a napa winemaker - and I'll add this:

There is no oxygen performance data that I have seen, but I'm assuming that it isnt good else the mfgr would be talking about it as a sales pitch.

There are other issues such as the fact that it increases the height of the bottle, you cant put the bottles back into the cases they came in... That is a big pain in the arse.

My other concern is that with all the wineclub shipping that a high-end winery would do - we need to get less weight with our packaging - not more this has both cost and carbon consequences.

Glass is also energy intensive (albeit recyclable) MIght be a toss-up as to which closure is best from an environmental perspective, but my money is on the thought that both corks and screwcaps are better than this.

Wicker Parker said...

I've seen the Vino-Lok primarily on Austrian wines meant for young drinking and I kept three of them around to cap off half-finished wines. They're especially handy when the original cork is crumbly and/or moldy. They don't fit atop most Italian wine bottles, but they snap admirably into place atop most French and American wine bottles.

Brooklynguy said...

Thanks for all of these comments. Sounds like, based on this sample anyway, Vino-Lok is more aesthetically pleasing than Stelvin, but perhaps allows more oxygen to contact the wine. Who knows...Cost seems to be about 70 cents extra per bottle. which I think is not a big deterrent.

Genevelyn, putting the glass cap back on can't be worse than putting the cork back in a bottle and putting it in the fridge overnight, can it? I do that all the time.

Henri Vasnier said...

Calera is one of California's more significant users of this closure, to the point where Josh Jensen says he's spending a six-digit number per year to use this closure instead of bark corks. They use it for all or substantially all their wines not intended for aging more than a year or three: in other words, not for the estate pinots or the estate chardonnay, but for pretty much everything else. One must observe that if you've never run into this closure before, you are not drinking enough Calera wines :)

Ken said...

I found the Vino-Lok in use by a small producer (400 cases/yr) in the Willamette Valley. I like that it's reusable on other bottles. The air permeability is actually nice, it seems to straddle the cork/screw-top divide.

Cork Lover said...

A comment above refers to the environmental impact of different wine closures. On this front cork is a clear winner. The environmental footprint associated with the production of natural cork stoppers is a lot smaller than alternative closures. Cork is a renewable resource, is biodegradable and recyclable and the cork forests of the Mediterranean play an important role in carbon dioxide retention. For more information on the environmental attributes of natural cork and the fight to save the cork forests visit www.savemiguel.com

Keith Levenberg said...

I love these things and find them so useful for recapping bottles (even bottles that came with bark corks) that I'll sometimes buy a bottle just to get the topper. That said, I can't imagine how it could make a better seal than a regular screwcap and it seems designed solely to satiate the "screwcaps look cheap" crowd. If people weren't so irrational about this, I doubt anyone would bother using the glass tops.