Friday, October 9, 2020

This week I am back on my soap box as a result of some recent propaganda from two major cork suppliers…

A QUICK TWO-STEP:  I recently read an article that was headed up “CORK SUPPLY ELIMINATES TCA”.  The article stated, “Calling it a major breakthrough, Portugal-based Cork Supply has introduced a two-step extraction process that guarantees all of its natural cork stoppers are 99.85% TCA-free with no off-aromas”. It went on to say, “All cork stoppers are put through both technological processes at no extra cost to the customer”.

Portugal-based Cork Supply (CS) guarantees all of its natural cork stoppers are 99.85 percent TCA-free with no off-aromas – A figure the company claims has not been achieved “anywhere else in the world.”

All cork stoppers are put through both technological processes at no extra cost to customers – So what they are saying is that they are not going to charge you extra to ensure that their product is “fit for use”. That is very magnanimous of them isn’t it? It would be like buying a new car that came with “free pre-delivery check-up to make sure the wheels are on correctly.”

►So what the headline says is the equivalent of a cleaning product saying, “eliminates all germs” in the headline and the text says, “kills 99.85% of germs”. If a cleaning chemical supplier made that claim, they would be dragged through the courts for misleading advertising.

►CS went on to say that if you are not happy with their 99.85% TCA free claim, you can have (at your cost) each individual cork tested and analysed either by a person with a hypersensitive nose (DS100) or a computer program (DS100+)!!

What they don’t mention in their propaganda and have no “guarantee” against is the possibility of the cork failing (weeping), thus allowing wine to weep out of the bottle or the ingress of air to oxidise the wine. They don’t give any assurances regarding crumbling corks – we have all experienced the joy of having a cork disintegrate as we struggle to remove it! Nor do they mention the sheer physical effort required to wrestle a cork out of a bottle – which is why most of the on-trade staff and many women prefer/love screwcaps rather than corks.

CAPTIVATING CORK:  Recently cork giant, Amorim, announced that a natural cork stopper has been proven to capture 309g of CO2 and a sparkling stopper can retain up to 562g.  Amorim say that this can offset the carbon footprint of the bottle that the wine is shipped in, depending on the weight of the bottle. According to them a bottle releases between 300-500g of CO2 during its production, making corks an ally to wine producers in the battle for sustainability.

They studied the: “..different life cycle stages under a cradle-to-gate approach. The processes included forest management activities, cork treatment stages including transport from the forest, and natural cork stoppers production, finishing and packaging. The distribution from Portugal to the UK was also included, together with additional information regarding carbon sequestration from the cork oak forest..”

Sorry if I sound a bit sceptical, but having spent over two decades reading puff pieces, propaganda and down-right lies from the cork producers, I am very, very sceptical of anything they say. I would be fascinated to be able have a look at the actual data involved in this study in order to see if there is any of the previously (amply) demonstrated cork producer bias in the figures, for example the freight from Portugal to the UK, a nearby country that produces very limited amounts of wine. What is the freight carbon footprint to say Germany, or the USA, China or Australia, etc., etc.?

Hey, I don’t care how my wine is sealed into the container it arrives in so long as the method of sealing does not have an impact on the quality of the wine. That is, I want the wine to arrive in the condition that the winemaker packaged it in. As time goes on we will see more wines under ring-pulls (wine in cans is growing rapidly) and under taps (in smaller/higher quality casks) as well as under screwcaps. Just like we still have horses in the age of the motor car and radio’s in the era of the TV and the personal devise, will always have corks sealing some bottles, BUT NOT those going into my cellar thanks! They lost me when I opened a corked bottle of Château Latour that I had properly cellared for 19 years, for my son’s 21st birthday and had to tip a small fortune down the drain!

Cheers and enjoy a well screwed wine over the weekend!

This Week's Wine Review:

This week I am talking about red blends. When most people think of a red blend, they think of Shiraz/Cabernet, or Cabernet Merlot or even GSM’s. Well, there are a raft of other fantastic red blends that most people have not tried and probably not even heard of them!

Have you heard of Pinot Shiraz? It is a blend that was pioneered by wine legend, Maurice O’Shea (Mount Pleasant), back in the first half of the 20th Century. In those days he called it “Pinot Hermitage” and it made breathtaking wines. There are a small handful of wineries today who have resurrected the Pinot/Shiraz, Shiraz/Pinot blend to great effect.

However today, I am talking about contemporary blends that have recently arisen using emerging, native Austrian varieties. That is, a couple of stunning wines made by the crew at MT BERA VINEYARDS, in the Adelaide Hills.

The first is the, MT BERA AMPHITHEATRE 2019 ZWEIGELT/ PINOT NOIR (the 2018 was a Pinot Noir/Zweigelt blend). This is a cracking blend that Maurice O’Shea would be proud of! It has attractive light, bright purple/red colour, gorgeous fragrances of red berries, with a splash of florals and spice. Wonderful mouthful of medium-bodied, very elegant wine – it is absolutely gorgeous! It is equally at home on its own, or with all but the richest/spiciest of food.

The other cracking blend is the, MT BERA AMPHITHEATRE 2018 SHIRAZ/ BLAUFRÄNKISCH. In a similar style to the way that Viognier softens off and enhanced the aromatics of cool-climate Shiraz, the addition of some Blaufränkisch to Shiraz creates a captivating and enchanting wine. This is a wine of great colour, with tight, cool-climate aromatics of strawberries, cherries, a hint of plums and a smattering of exotic spices on the complex bouquet. The palate is silky-smooth, has great depth and delightful flavours leading to a divine finish – it is so elegant and enticing!

These are great examples of unusual but great new blends. Have you tried any exciting blends that fall outside the “norm”? If so I would love to hear about them.

Cheers! Have a great week, stay safe and enjoy some smashing wines!!

Winery Link: