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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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Know Your Variety - Australian Malbec
Neglected for decades in France as a lesser blending grape, Malbec was resurrected and championed in Argentina as an excellent single varietal wine. It's now having a similar resurgence in Australia, with some excellent Australian Malbec wines appearing in the  Clare Valley ,  Langhorne Creek ,  Margaret River  and  Great Southern . To help us learn more about this plush and fruit driven red wine, we reached out to a few Australian Malbec experts with winemakers from  Forest Hill Wines ,  Bremerton  and Tamburlaine Organic Wines. AUSTRALIAN MALBEC AT A GLANCE THE VARIED ORIGINS OF MALBEC
Malbec (sometimes known as Côt and Auxxerois) originates from the French wine regions of  Bordeaux and Sud-Ouest . However, it was historically viewed as more a blending grape and played second fiddle to the prized Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot and Grenache vines in those regions. Malbec found its new home in Argentina, where it has been adapted and refined into an excellent single varietal wine style, with excellent examples from the Mendoza region. Today, 75% of the world's Malbec now hails from Argentina, often blended with a touch of Touriga Nacional. MALBEC COMES TO AUSTRALIA
Rebecca Willson , winemaker at Bremerton Wines, argues that Malbec has a spiritual home in South Australia as it "was the first dry red variety ever planted in  Langhorne Creek  by The Potts Family of Bleasdale in the late 1800s". In fact, Bleasdale's first ever single varietal wine was a Malbec in 1961. However, the great red vine cull in the 1970s and 1980s removed many alternate varieties from vineyards across the country. The recent trend of wine lovers searching for new and exciting wine styles to try, has given rise to a modern resurgence. Malbec is now the wine of the moment. Rebecca thinks this is because "the variety offers an alternative to  Shiraz  as our biggest consumed red varietal, it's berry driven and plush." Malbec can be a difficult grape to grow, but today with better viticulture and better strains of the variety, it's thriving in moderate climates such as the Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek, Margaret River and Great Southern. Tamburlaine Organic Wines chief winemaker,  Mark Davidson , notes that "just like in Argentina, the real lesson has been that the wine produced at higher altitudes of 800m to 1000m has really shone". As such, there is great promise for award winning Malbec from emerging cool climate regions such as Canberra or Orange, where  Tamburlaine's excellent Malbec  is sourced. TASTING NOTES With a similar weight to  Shiraz ,  Cabernet Sauvignon  or  Petit Verdot , Malbec has a big, juicy and plush flavour with a robust structure and moderately firm tannins. It has distinctive dark purple colour and notes of red plum, blueberry, vanilla, cocoa and an essence of sweet tobacco. Forest Hill Wines chief winemaker,  Liam Carmody , is rather fond of the "intense purple colour and fruit brightness" of  their Malbec  and notes that it has a "generally softer tannin structure than some other red grape varieties." For Bremerton's Rebecca Willson it's the "violet, currant purple fruits with velvety tannins, plushness and purity" of the variety. MALBEC AND FOOD PAIRING
The bold flavours, robust structure and higher tannins of Malbec call for dishes with a bold flavour to match such as hard cheese, steak or even sausage such as this  chickpea and chorizo hotpot recipe by Miguel Maestre.  Our  Argentinian beef steak with chimichurri sauce recipe  is also a great way to round out an Argentinian themed dinner. Or for a vegetarian option, our spinach and cheese empanadas recipe matches well to a  plush Malbec from Great Southern  . When it comes to Malbec food matches, Bremerton's Rebecca Willson prefers "charcoal barbecue of a great cut from your local butcher, or pulled pork sliders". For Forest Hill Wines' Liam Carmody, Australian Malbec means just one dish, "a rare steak sandwich!" Recommended Recipe:  Miguel Maestre's chickpea and chorizo hotpot TRY AUSTRALIAN MALBEC TODAY Explore Australian Malbec with these great examples that have all passed our rigorous Tasting Panel selection process with flying colours.
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Henschke – Beyond the Hill
Words by Paul Diamond on 27 Sep 2017
Selector goes beyond the hill (of Grace) to discover a treasure  trove of stories in the vast and impressive range of a true icon in the Australian wine industry. The Henschke name holds a revered place in the vast mural that is the Australian wine landscape and for very good reason. Their Hill of Grace Shiraz has defined what is possible for an Australian single vineyard wine and is often considered our greatest. At $825 a bottle, Hill of Grace is now considered a wine ‘unicorn’ and the current 2012 vintage recently received Halliday’s prestigious Wine Of The Year award , further cementing its place as one of the world’s greats. The vineyard, planted by second generation Henschke, Paul Gotthard in the 1860s, is considered among our most precious wine assets. Of those who have been lucky enough to try Hill of Grace, few will doubt the acclaim it receives. But what about Henschke’s other wines? A total of 31 wines make up the Henschke portfolio and whilst Hill of Grace could easily dominate page space, the wines that tell the rest of the family story are equally deserving of your attention.  Selector recently visited the Henschke family at Keyneton in the Barossa’s Eden Valley for a special tasting with fifth generation winemaker Stephen and his daughter, Justine, to flesh out the Henschke story beyond its flagship. The Grape Garden of Eden
The Henschkes call the elevated hills and plains of Eden Valley, specifically Keyneton, home. “The name Eden Valley is just gorgeous, conjuring up many things, so whoever called this place Eden Valley really knew what they were talking about,” explains Stephen. “South Australia has the reputation for being the driest state on the driest continent on the planet, but there are parts of it, like the Mount Lofty Ranges, that have an amazing climate. “At about 500 metres, we have four distinct seasons; from wet winters and mild, sunny springs through to mild to hot summers and dry autumns. “Those seasons, and the day-night temperature differential during the ripening period is the critical parameter for the low PH/high acidity that creates natural balance in the fruit and the resultant quality and purity of the wine. “For Riesling, it keeps acidity and minerality and you get fine, pure examples. You’ve got Shiraz that is much more elegant, textural and spicy; red fruits, black fruits and lovely velvety tannins – all driven by the climate.” Liquid History              
The first bracket of Rieslings quickly reinforced Stephen’s point, showing how fine-boned Eden Valley Riesling can be. Julius is named in celebration of Stephen’s great uncle Albert Julius, who was a stonemason and well known for his sculpting and war memorial work in Adelaide and the Barossa.  All three wines tasted expressed a fine but generous backbone of lime juice-like acidity that carried with it layers of concentrated citrus, just-ripe stonefruits, minerals and spices through the length of each wine. The 2002 Julius, with 15 years under its belt, expressed the ability for these wines to age gracefully and was still showing youthful floral aromatics, fleshy primary and secondary fruit flavours and a fresh, clean mouthfeel.  The consensus was that whilst mouth-watering, the 2016 was still in its infancy and needed time to show its true colours. The 2002 Julius was Stephen’s pick and he loved the amazing spicy, floral mix of the aromatics. Wine Selectors’ Head of Product Matt White had similar thoughts and remarked on the wine’s youth and poise. A bracket of exotic Gewürztraminers followed, again reinforcing how much of an impact the Eden’s warm days and cool nights have on coaxing fine and delicate flavours out of the aromatic grape varieties. Named after Joseph Hill Thyer, who planted the first vines on the family’s Eden Valley property, these wines are an expressive nod to the great European Gewürztraminers of Alsace. Heady aromas of musk, Turkish delight, lychee, rosewater and delicate blossoms are all things that you could see in all of the wines shown. In the mouth, tight and complex citrus flavour lines made way for fleshy red and green apples followed by a fine, clean finish. Justine was a fan of the 2016, believing that it had great potential to age, whilst my pick was the 2010 for its complexity, texture and classic European style. Next in the glass was a line-up of Louis Semillons, named after Louis Edmund Henschke, who managed the Hill of Grace Vineyard for four decades. Louis ran the vineyard organically and Stephen’s wife Prue, the Henschke viticulturist, has continued this philosophy, including biodynamics for soil and vine health. Once considered wacky, biondyamics is now recognised as best practice. Prue is a true leader in the field and much of the modern success and sustainability of the Henschke name needs to be attributed to her influence. The Louis wines are classic varietal examples of Semillon displaying lemon, lemon peel and citrus aromatics and flavours of lanolin, apples, and spice on the palate. The wines were stylistically unique, showing lots of open, fleshy complexity as young and older wines. The 2014 Louis and even the 2010, while still being fresh and youthful, were exhibiting loads of juicy, fleshy fruits that maintained all the way from start to finish. Matt loved the 2014 for its youth and purity, Justine the 2003 for its gracefully aged elements and creamy fruit and Stephen believed the 2014 to be a ‘complete’ wine with appealing complexity and structure. Heavenly
A collection of Abbotts Prayer wines came next and served as a neat segue into exploring another important regional chapter in the Henschke story – the Adelaide Hills. Stephen and Prue purchased an orchard at Lenswood in 1981 to plant cool climate varieties. The devastating Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 wiped out the orchard and Prue and Stephen then established vineyards. Abbotts Prayer is a single vineyard, Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon blend first produced in 1989 in acknowledgement of the region’s religious and cultural history. The wines are an elegant expression of cool climate intensity, but delivered with composure and finesse. The 1996 example gloriously demonstrated the ability to age beautifully by displaying surprising youth for a 21-year-old. The wines were sweet and spicy, delivering fine, orderly layers of blackberry, blueberry, mulberries and plums, the mouthfeel velveteen and the finish long. Whilst the 1996 was a favourite for its age, the 2012 was the standout for everyone involved. Stephen loved its elegance and power, Matt loved the complexity and Justine favoured its youthful balance and power. A fitting finale
Lastly we tasted Euphonium, dedicated to the Henschke Family Brass Band that was a favourite pastime of the early German-Silesian settlers in the Barossa from the 1840s. Keyneton Euphonium (formerly Keyneton Estate) is a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend with each year delivering varying percentages. The wine is intense, rich and complex, displaying classic old world Hermitage characteristics: star anise, pepper, tar, dark berry, cigar box and sweet cassis aromas that make way to a concentrated but smooth palate of fleshy blackberries, mulberries and silky soft tannins. We all loved the 2002 Euphonium for its aged elegance, Justine favoured the 2009 for its savoury fruit construction, while Stephen loved the 2013 for its fruit-driven palate and fresh balance. Family Reflections It’s gratifying to know that each Henschke wine contains a part of their family story and each year they celebrate their history by turning soil, grape and sunlight into something delicious that can be shared and cherished. It’s even more gratifying that the wines are as great as the stories. Stephen fittingly and simply put the Henschke mantra into perspective. “Our whole philosophy is about being better not bigger. It’s about the quality, our amazing resources of old vineyards and making the most of our beautiful fruit and turning it into something really special.” Long may the stories continue. The Wines of the Tasting Henschke Julius Riesling 2016 A pure Eden Valley Riesling with power and finesse. Fresh and delicate lime blossom and kaffir lime aromatics lead to a mouth-watering palate of minerals, green apples and limes. A definite keeper. Henschke Keyneton Euphonium cabernet Blend 2013 An attractive, regal wine with complex aromatics of spice, plums, mulberries and blackberries. The palate is fine yet powerful with velvety, spicy layers of plums, blackberries and mocha. Henschke Louis Semillon 2014 A complex, well-structured Semillon with good cellaring potential. Fleshy, open aromatics of fresh and baked apples, preserved lemons and marzipan with a palate full of sugar snap peas, lemons and lime juice.    
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Meet Flying Fish Cove’s senior winemaker, Simon Ding
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Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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