Campbell Mattinson answers your pressing wine questions
I’ve seen a huge shift from cork to screwcap over the past decade in Australia, which I applaud. Yet some big-name wines, such as Yalumba e Signature and Penfolds Grange, still use cork. As a consumer, why would I want to take the risk of buying something now and putting it away for 20 years, only to nd it could be corked down the track? is is a signi cant factor that in uences what I purchase these days. Are these wine companies still too beholden to French tradition despite their better judgement?
It’s a question many wine drinkers ask, particularly in Australia. e examples above give a pretty clear prod towards the answer: the wine companies involved simply believe the people buying these wines are traditional buyers who would prefer these traditional reds to be sealed with a traditional cork. In Australia, there is no doubt a great deal of pressure on all wine companies to bottle their wines with a screwcap seal; in international markets the demand is still far less clearcut. Indeed, most international markets prefer cork seals on their ultra-premium wines. ‘Market forces’ is the main reason why the above wines, and many more like them, are still sealed with a cork.
I’m 35 and have been a wine enthusiast for more than ve years. I have a good collection of wines that continues to build with so many good wines at remarkable prices. Many friends leverage my wine knowledge and one question I struggle to answer is how to store wines without a wine fridge or cellar option in their house. I have read a number of articles and none provide solutions for creating an environment in a house. I have my wine stored in a built-in wardrobe in a spare room. is isn’t ideal, but it’s my best option. Understanding it isn’t foolproof, is there a way to build or create something that is cost e ective in reducing the risks of the wine being damaged?
Anything you can do to reduce rapid temperature variation will be worth its weight in liquid gold. e coolest part of the house (or under the house), wrapping bottles in multiple layers of newspaper, employing polystyrene boxes (for example, broccoli boxes), covering boxes in blankets, and even just keeping wines in the sealed boxes they arrived in are all useful tactics. None of these methods will provide perfect storage conditions, but all will help slow the rate of temperature change, which in many cases is the real killer. All these methods (and anything else you can think of ) keep light away from the wines; another crucial consideration. When I rst started cellaring wine, I had scores of wines wrapped in newspaper, inside polystyrene boxes, covered in blankets, in my (southern Victorian) wardrobe and they performed well.
When visiting a cellar door and tasting the wines on o er, what is deemed appropriate etiquette in the circumstance a visitor doesn’t enjoy the wine on o er and therefore not wish to buy from that particular winery? Do wineries expect to have visitors taste and not buy? Should consumers feel obliged to purchase at the end of a tasting session?
is is an absolute can of worms. It would be fair to say this is a keen topic of discussion among cellar door sta and visitors alike. e following statements are equally correct: nothing annoys cellar door sta more than visitors who treat the cellar door as a boozy free for - all with little intention of buying anything, and nothing annoys visitors more than feeling obligated to buy wine they didn’t really enjoy. e truth is there is no requirement to buy if you didn’t nd anything you like so you should therefore feel free to walk. At the same time, a cellar door is not a bar; the chance to taste wines there is an incredibly generous o ering and this should be treated with respect. Don’t abuse the generosity. Be polite, use the spittoon, don’t turn your back on the serving sta and only taste the wines that genuinely take your interest.
Reading wine critiques is one of the joys of discovering the world of wine, yet deciphering wine terms can at times be tricky. e concept of ‘body’ or ‘length’ make sense to me; you can visualise what they may mean when tasting a wine. But a couple of recent terms I’ve seen used have me stumped. Wines have been described as ‘well structured’ and ‘focused’. Could you please explain what these mean?
Name a term, any term, and there will be examples where it’s been used well or abused. e main – but by no means only – structural elements are tannin and acid, so any wine with minimal tannin and minimal acid would feel loose and free owing, which may indeed be the very e ect the winemaker was intending. Lots of tannin and lots of acid don’t automatically make for a wellstructured wine; it’s all about the overall balance of the wine’s various components and the interplay between them. ‘Focused’ is often a related (or indeed substitute) term. Some wines – usually low in acid and/or tannin – just feel fruity and loose. ese wines would be the opposite of focused.