When I pulled the cork from a bottle of Henry Fessy Château des Reyssiers Régnié to enjoy with lunch the other day, I was a bit irritated to discover that its cork was not a cork.
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That’s what I said. This wine was stoppered with one of those pale, flesh-colored plastic plugs. Feh! I thought those had gone off the market years ago, rejected by wine nerds because wines deteriorated so rapidly under them.
Sure, those stoppers were popular for a while, back in the early 2000s, when much of the wine industry was moving rapidly away from often-tainted natural cork in the direction of plastic “corks,” sturdy metal screw caps, and a few more offbeat items such as glass apothecary stoppers.
It didn’t take long, though, for most wine enthusiasts to discover that screw caps were winning that battle. After mastering a glitch or two, the screw cap proved a secure, clean alternative with the added advantage of being easy to put back on a half-full bottle after the meal.
The cork industry fought a spirited retreat, at least in the high-end sector, improving sourcing and sanitation in cork production as well as developing “technical” corks like DIAM made from cork fragments chemically treated to remove the nasty chemicals that cause taint.
Amid all the competition, plastic stoppers quickly fell to the back of the pack. With the possible exception of the most inexpensive wines, made to buy and drink within months, these synthetic closures seemed to disappear from quality wines. I hadn’t encountered one for a while. Hence my groan when I realized there was on in my Régnié.
When I got it out, though, the lettering on the side of the stopper surprised me. Adjacent to the standard “Mis en bouteille dans nos chai” (“put in bottles in our cellar”), it read “Select Green 300 – 100% Recyclable.”
It turns out that “Select Green” is a product of Nomacorc, one of the firms that first marketed the synthetic stopper a couple of decades ago. It appears that there’s a new generation of synthetic stoppers. They’re still hard to get out of the bottle and off your corkscrew, but they come with at least two distinct advantages:
First, they’ve engineered materials that control the gradual, slow ingress of oxygen into the bottle – mimicking the behavior of natural cork – at several levels keyed to the length of time that the specific wine is intended for cellaring. This results in several grades of Select Green (100, 300, and 500 ranges) designed for different wines.
Second, they’ve gone “green.” The new closures, they say, are made from polymers based on sugarcane (and, in turn, limited to Brazilian growers who do not burn over their cane fields, an environmental assault). They seek to minimize environmental impact, claiming a reduced carbon footprint in making and distributing the corks. And they say the used closures are recyclable, in the triangle-4 category that is widely accepted by recycling centers.
Of course, screw caps are metal and may be tossed right in the recycling bin. Natural corks are a bit more challenging for recycling; they’re a natural product, but most recycling centers can’t use them, so they have to be taken to wine shops and other businesses that participate in programs like ReCork (currently suspended due to the pandemic).
But I like to recycle, so I’m happy to see this. And my 2017 Régnié village Beaujolais was in fine shape, a good wine, still fresh and young. You’ll find my tasting notes below.
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Today’s Tasting Report
Henry Fessy 2017 Château des Reyssiers Régnié ($16.99)
This is a clear, dark, reddish-violet wine shading to a thin clear edge. Its aroma offers pleasant red berries, strawberries and raspberries with a whiff of black-cherry liqueur, and a hint of the high-toned volatile acidity that’s typical of Beaujolais. On the palate it’s fresh, juicy, and tart, balanced if somewhat rustic cherry-berry fruit framed by crisp acidity, light scratchy tannins, and subtle red-clay minerality joining red fruit in the finish. Very good Régnié, good with food, a moderate 13% alcohol claimed. U.S. importer: Louis Latour Inc., San Rafael, Calif. (April 30, 2020)
FOOD MATCH: Producer Henry Fessy suggests an eclectic list of pairings including white meats, grilled entrecote steaks, barbecued ribs and, broadly, “appetizers and cheese.” I found it an enjoyable match with a grilled fennel risotto.
WHEN TO DRINK: The Gamay-based wines from the named villages of Beaujolais, like Régnié, are generally capable of improving with time in a temperature-controlled cellar. If the synthetic stopper can be trusted, it should be good and could improve over the next three to five years.
My local price isn’t out of line with Wine-Searcher.com’s $16 average U.S. retail. It’s a good value at this price.
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Check prices and find vendors for Henry Fessy Château des Reyssiers Régnié on Wine-Searcher.com.
Read about Régnié at this Wine-Searcher link, and scroll down to find vendor and price listings for dozens of other wines from the village.
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