Q&A

Halliday - - Contents -

Camp­bell Mat­tin­son an­swers your press­ing wine ques­tions

Q:

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?

Brett Marks

A:

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.

Q:

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?

Rick Mitchell

A:

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.

Q:

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?

Mitch Wallen

A:

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.

Q:

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?

Adam New­man

A:

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.

Con­grat­u­la­tions Adam! You’ve won six bot­tles of the 2015 Scion Du­rif from Ruther­glen.

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