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Wine

Screw Cap vs Cork - the Seal of Approval

Tasting Panellist Dave Mavor tells why a crack wins over a pop when it comes to opening wine.

Screwcap closures were first used in the Australian wine industry in the 1970s, but consumers at the time perceived these wines to be of lower quality, and the initiative soon fizzled out.

The screwcap comeback came in the 2000 vintage when a number of ClareValley winemakers bottled some of their Rieslings under screwcap to prevent cork-related faults. The most common of these is cork 'taint', caused by a compound known as TCA, which was often present in cork bark. Before the proliferation of screw cap closures in Australia, the level of wines ruined by cork taint was 12-15%. To put this in perspective, for every two dozen you purchased, it was accepted that there would be at least two bottles affected. This relatively high occurrence of cork taint was due largely to cork suppliers providing Australia with (compared to Europe) second rate corks with a higher incidence of taint producing bacteria.

Due to the airtight nature of screwcaps, the problem of premature oxidation was also eliminated, along with the 'flavourscalping' tendency of the porous cork material, and other potential flavour modifications.

Another advantage now widely recognised by consumers is the convenience factor - screwcapped bottles are easy to open and re-seal!

 

SCREWING WITH TIME

One of the criticisms of screwcaps, apart from the ridiculous (in my view) notion of missing the 'romance' of the sound of popping a cork, was that the seal was so good that wines would not mature with time, due to the absence of oxygen. However, there is normally a miniscule amount of dissolved oxygen within the wine itself when it is bottled, which will allow the wine to evolve, and each bottle will age at roughly the same rate, while retaining its freshness and vitality for much longer.

With wines under cork, the maturation process is not only much faster, but each bottle will age at a different rate due to the variable consistency and therefore oxygen permeability of the corks. A recent innovation in screwcap technology has seen the development of closures that allow strictly controlled rates of oxygen transmission, giving winemakers the choice of differing maturation rates for different wine styles.

I have now had the opportunity to taste wines that have been aging gracefully under screwcap for up to 15 years, including the same wine bottled under both cork and screwcap. I've even had the privilege of tasting wines from those early adopters in the 70's, which at the time were still going strong.

 

INTERNATIONAL EYE-OPENER

To reinforce my beliefs, award-winning Australian wine writer Tyson Stelzer came up with some stunning results from a tasting at Italy's biggest wine show, Vinitaly, in March, 2015.

Tyson presented five mature flagship Australian red wines under both cork and screwcap in a blind tasting. Some of Australia's most age-worthy and respected reds were presented, including the Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2004.

In a major surprise the panel of international wine professionals voted the screwcapped wines ahead of the corks.

"The result was ground-breaking for Italy, where screwcaps remain controversial and until recently have been prohibited on the country's top wines," Tyson said. Even Venice sommelier Annie Martin-Stefannato admitted "we will have to change our mindset".

So, given all the evidence for the superiority of screwcap closures, my personal preference will always be to hear a 'crack' rather than a 'pop' when I open a bottle of wine.

 

 

 

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Life
Green with envy - Cool climes of Orange
Words by Drew Tuckwell on 17 Aug 2015
I will lay my cards on the table right from the start. I love Sauvignon Blanc. It is a noble and great grape variety with interest and intrigue. It produces some of my favourite wines on the planet. Like so many wine drinkers, my first memorable Sauvignon Blanc experience was a wine from Marlborough. I still remember the wow factor, the new flavour sensation. It was revelation. It was exciting. Now, 25 years on from that moment, I am a winemaker in Orange NSW making my fair share of Sauvignon Blanc in what I think is one of Australia’s leading regions for the variety. Despite being synonymous with New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc actually originates from the upper Loire Valley in north-west France, most famously from the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. These days, these are the wines that make me go weak at the knees. The top wines of producers such as Gérard Boulay, Didier Dagueneau, Alphonse Mellot, amongst others, rival some of the more famous wines of Burgundy. 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In summer, 300C is a pretty warm day and the area is rarely touched by a true drought. What it lacks in latitude, it makes up for in altitude. As I often point out, Orange is a little bit of Tassie in the middle of New South Wales. All this makes for great Sauvignon Blanc country and the local vignerons have taken the varietal to their hearts. Of the almost 40 wine producers in the region, nearly all make a Savvy of some description. This vested interest is crucial in treating Sauvignon Blanc with the love and respect it deserves. It enables the development of a regional style and continual improvement in wine quality. After declaring Sauvignon Blanc as the region’s hero variety in the mid-2000s, the region has evolved to identify some of the best vineyard sites and has become more adventurous with its winemaking techniques seeking to find the best expressions of this wonderful variety. Its a style thing The most common expression of Sauvignon Blanc in the Orange region is the fresh, intense fruit-driven style – and it rarely disappoints. Less herbal, it has a tropical punch with passionfruit being a key flavour. It tends to be a bit fuller with more palate weight, but is still lively. Logan, Printhie, Mayfield, Swinging Bridge and Angullong excel in this style, while a new producer, Colmar Estate, revealed a cracker from their debut 2014 vintage. A subtler style, that is still fresh but somewhat more refined, is also being produced in Orange. This is what I refer to as the ‘less is more’ style. Less of the upfront, big impact aromatic intensity and more of the subtle aromas, flavours and layers than your regular Sav Blanc fruit bomb. Ross Hill Pinnacle is a prime example, as is the Cumulus Sauvignon Blanc and Philip Shaw No.19. There is also a more complex style of Sauvignon Blanc being engineered in Orange. Made in much the same way as Chardonnay, with subtle oak treatment, wild yeast and some malolactic fermentation, these wines often show funky aromatics, smooth texture and savoury complexity. They still have the varietal characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc, but are a world away from the Marlborough version and more towards a Sancerre style. De Salis Fumé, Printhie MCC and Patina are all pushing this envelope. However, these wines are made in such small quantities, sometimes less than 100 cases, and are rarely found outside the region’s restaurants and cellar doors – but they are well worth tracking down. Many times I have seen the pleasantly surprised reaction of committed non-Sauvignon Blanc drinkers seeing this variety in a different light. It is one they had never come across before and it usually inspires them enough to buy a bottle. I believe this complex style is the future of Sauvignon Blanc in Australia. Every wine drinker has evolving tastes and wine producers also need to evolve. It is a sure thing that the most popular wine of five years ago will be made in quite different ways in five years time. So expect to come across more Sauvignon Blancs that are made with cloudy juice rather than clear juice, that are fermented in barrels rather than stainless steel tanks, with naturally occurring yeast from the vineyard rather than commercial yeast cultures. It is an exciting time for Sauvignon Blanc drinkers and producers alike. But wait, there’s more Any conversation about wine in the Orange region inevitably comes around to Chardonnay. Alongside Sauvignon Blanc, I consider it to be the most exciting wine style in Australia. The quality, the style evolution, and the regional characteristics are fantastic. It excels in virtually every wine growing area across the country, so if a region is going to tout its Chardonnay credentials these days, it has to be pretty smart wine. With 30 medal-winning Chardonnays from 47 entries in the 2014 Orange Wine Show, it would seem that Orange Chardonnay is in the sweet spot. Not long after the Show I sat in on a tasting with a group of wine writers, and it was the Chardonnays they raved about. It was a landmark moment and testament to the quality and style of Orange Chardy. With across-the-board success, the good news that you can score a winner from a host of producers from Swinging Bridge Estate, Patina, Borrodell to Carillion, Centennial, De Salis, Philip Shaw and boutique producers such as Dindima and Heifer Station. The reds of orange Wherever Chardonnay does well, so too should Pinot Noir and this difficult and temperamental variety is right at home in the highest vineyards in Orange. It can be reliably ripened at elevations where other reds cannot. The best Pinots are perfumed, earthy and very inviting and that is exactly what you get in the cool climes of Orange. Seductive and charming in their youth, they are not wines that need lengthy cellaring. Standouts from the region include the Pinots of De Salis, Philip Shaw, Ross Hill, Bantry Grove, Stockman’s Ridge, Brangayne, Mayfield and Logan. Much has been written recently about the style shift of big, bold Shiraz to the more refined, elegant cool climate Shiraz and it would seem that Orange is perfectly placed to take advantage of this trend. I have always considered Shiraz to be the most consistent red variety in Orange. It performs across different elevations, producer to producer and from vintage to vintage. It is medium bodied, spicy and floral with freshness from natural acidity. The richer styles of Shiraz come from lower elevations and producers such as Cumulus, Angullong, Ross Hill and Printhie, while the likes of Logan, Philip Shaw, Centennial and newcomer Montoro highlight the spiciness of higher elevation vineyards. Alternative hotbed While the aforementioned traditional varietals do well in Orange, it seems there is a huge future for alternative varieties as well. Angullong has played with Italians Sangiovese and Barbera for some time and have recently added Vermentino and Sagrantino. Stockmans Ridge has planted Gruner Veltliner, Sassy Wines and Rowlee have Arneis, Cargo Road has Zinfandel. Centennial and Hedberg Hill have Tempranillo. It is perhaps the ultimate accolade for Orange that producers from other regions are sourcing fruit from our elevated climate to make their wine. Hunter Valley’s David Hook, a long-time alternative producer, now sources his Barbera and Riesling from Orange. Tulloch’s buy Tempranillo grapes, See Saw grow Sauvignon Blanc, while Pepper Tree Wines source their award-winning Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Orange. Time for a visit As Orange is just a couple of hours drive from Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle it is worth making the trip to visit. From the historic town of Orange, there are gorgeous villages such as Millthorpe and Canowindra not far away. It is here you will find Rosnay, a biodynamic farm producing whole range of treats from olive oil and paste, figs in various forms and wine – very much worth a visit. This of course reminds me how spectacular the food of Orange is. See for yourself at the farmers’ markets held the second Saturday of every month. There’s also the massive FOOD week event in April, the Apple Festival in May and WINE week in Ocotober. Check out tasteorange.com.au for all the details and programs for all the events. But in the meantime, aim for the heights and sit down with a glass of Orange wine. I bet you’ll enjoy it.
Life
Cellar Doors Italian style
Words by Alessandro Ragazzo on 20 Aug 2015
Like most producers in the world, Italian wineries are constantly looking at making better quality wine. In Italy in recent times, this search has become a study of the ‘fashion of form’ – uncovering the intricate concept of structure of wine to help conceive that perfect drop. This thinking has also extended to ‘Turismo Enogastronomico’ (food and wine tourism) with spectacular results. Old estates have been transformed by a collection of famous Italian architects, so that the cellar door and winery has become as much the centre of attraction as the wine. It is a union between tradition and modernity, a road map that directs guests and the curious to an unexpected and beguiling journey. These new concept wineries have been designed by architects and engineers in conjunction with Italy’s most famous contemporary sculptors, and using biodynamic principles so their designs are at one with their environment. Gone are the boring rusty tinned walls of decaying estates, ushering in is a new era of engineering that utilises the natural shape of the landscape as the centre of attraction. Buildings don’t just go up, they also flow out, around and even down inside the earth. Natural inspirations The choice of materials, most of the made from recycled or sustainable products, and the sensitivity for the surroundings have been critical elements in this architectural revolution. The most precious inspiration for Arnaldo Pomodoro, one of Italy’s greatest contemporary sculptors and designers, was a turtle, a symbol of longevity and stability. In this case, the shell of the turtle became the domed copper roof of the Tenuta Coltibuono di Bevagna , a winery in Umbria. Pomodoro had produced many sculptures in his time, but this was the first for the wine industry and the success of the project reverberated on an international scale and set the tone for the design wave to come in the Italian wine industry. Other wineries followed suit, embracing the art of the concept and seeing it as a way to reinvigorate tourism to the wine regions. Designers and architects Paolo Dellapiana and Francesco Bermond des Ambrois collaborated to conceptualise the Cascina Adelaide di Barolo in Cuneo, Piemonte. This amazing structure has been built into the hills, and from a distance it almost disappears into the countryside, perfectly camouflaged with the rest of the habitat – almost like a Hobbit house full of wine, if you will. Structure and form While many of the structures are dazzling from the outside, just as much thought and design has been applied to the internal workings. Everything from barrel halls to crushing rooms have transformed wineries’ inner workings into virtual exhibition halls. The new Antinori Cellar Door in the Chianti Classico area near Florence is a perfect example. Designed by Mario Casamonti it is a truly unique structure. With a surface area of 24,000m2, it took eight years to construct, with an investment of 40 million Euro. The structure is developed horizontally rather than vertically, with the winery hidden in the earth. The production facilities and storage are spread across three stunning levels. And the interior design is simply breathtaking with terracotta vaults to ensure perfect temperature and humidity levels.   The new world order Where Italy once had wineries they now have monuments. And while there are still plenty of the old style ‘casale’ with moulded walls and giant dirty barrels, the way forward is for large, clean, bright and spacious structures with areas dedicated to each individual phase of wine production.   This concept of wine and design seems to be resonating around the globe with architects working on amazing structures   from California to Chile, from Spain to France, from Alto Adige to Sicily, and even right here in Australia – think Chester Osborn’s big Rubik’s Cube plans for d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale. The future is now and it is an exciting time for those who appreciate design in architecture and in their wine glass.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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