London, July 8 : Celebrating an occasion over French wine won't be the same experience anymore, for winemakers from France are dumping the traditional cork in favour of the New World screw top, whose use is rocketing worldwide.
While New World wines have adopted the screw top for years - with up to 90 per cent of New Zealand wines and 60 per cent of Australian bottles using them - giving up the time-honoured cork has met with much stiffer resistance in France beyond the cheaper end of the market.
But according to one wine expert, two of the world's top names - Domaine de la Romanee-Conti in Burgundy, whose bottles can sell for tens of thousands of pounds, and Bordeaux's legendary Chateau Margaux - are now looking into screw tops.
Though Romanee-Conti has remained mum on the issue, with tops still viewed as heresy by many purists.
But the director general of Chateau Margaux, Paul Pontallier, confirmed that the Bordeaux domaine was trying them out. "It's true, we've been doing tests for the past four or five years. But it's too early to say whether we will use them, as our wines are made to be kept," the Telegraph quoted Pontallier, as saying.
However, one of Burgundy's best-known producers, Jean-Claude Boisset, has already started them on top wines, including a Chambertin grand cru 2005, which sells for almost 100 pounds a bottle.
This year, a third of the producer's 200,000 bottles will use screw tops.
"We started at the high end, because we are convinced that screw tops are perfect for fine wines that need to age, as they protect them better than cork from oxidation," said Gregory Patriat, in charge of bottling at Boisset.
"We're not staying that corks are bad, it's just that screw tops are better," he said.
The other alternative to the costly cork are plastic stops, but wine growers say these are only of use on bottles to be drunk within two to three years, as they quickly change shape and let in oxygen.
Story first published: Tuesday, July 8, 2008, 13:07 [IST]