WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

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WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Sue Courtney » Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:21 pm

Yesterday I went to a Taylors Wines tasting and luncheon lured there by the fact it was going to be a comparison of wines in screwcap and cork. Taylors has its home in the Clare Valley in South Australia and is known as Wakefield in some parts of the world - probably because there is a port producer of the same name. Yesterday I learned that Wakefield is the name of the river bed that dissects the Clare Valley vineyard, although earlier this year the river did actually run for 3 hours after a bout of rain.

The wine tasting was very nice and there were some very nice wines. I particularly enjoyed the Taylors St Andrews Riesling 2002 - from one of the coolest years ever in South Australia. This wine is bottle aged before released and is developing gloriously. Crisp, bright and steely but also a little creamy with freshly squeezed orange juice and a sprinkling of zest then a myriad of different citrus and honeysuckle nuances on the finish. I loved the aromas, too - developing like Clare riesling does and whisking me to a South Pacific island with its lime/hint of coconut/tropical fruit scent. A weighty Riesling with 13% alcohol and rather expensive at NZ$40 a bottle.

But I was disappointed that only one wine was presented for the cork /screwcap comparison. All of the others were screwcap only. The wine was Taylors St Andrew Shiraz 2003. The screwcapped wine was brighter in colour with more purple notes to the red black hue. There is rich berry fruit on the nose and in the palate it is savoury yet sweet, spicy and creamy with anise-like spices, sweet oak, smoke, cherry and a touch of chocolate. Tannins are dry but the finish is long and succulent with a spicy lift and fruit brightness.

The cork-closed wine is denser in colour but without the purples. It also seemed to me the more aromatic of the two but the aromas are dominated with pencil shavings rather than fruit. Savoury, spicy and liquoricey but overall more mellow and grainy with smoke and cigar box notes lingering on the finish.

Winemaker Helen McCarthy, who presented the tasting, says she never knows what she is going to get when she opens one of the Taylors cork-closed wines. "Every bottle is different," she says. Some are pristine; some, like the one we tasted, show more 'woody' notes whether that be from the oak or the cork. Then of course there are the varying levels of TCA. That aside, she said the cork can scalp 'fresh' aromas and it was the deadening of the fruit she noticed on the cork-closed wine when she opened and poured them for our tasting. The wines had been poured and set on the table before I arrived but she said the screwcapped wine was more than noticeably fruity and aromatic. Both wines state 14.5% alcohol by volume and the price- in NZ about $70.

It was clear to everyone there that the screwcapped wine was fresher. But both were nice wines to taste and in many ways similar - but dissimilar enough to reassure me I would not have picked them as the same wine had I tasted them blind.

Cheers,
Sue Courtney
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:29 pm

That's the kind of experiment I like to see - tasting the same wine under two closures. I wish I could buy a range of wines that way & do my own experimentation.
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Mark Lipton » Tue Jul 29, 2008 1:01 am

David M. Bueker wrote:That's the kind of experiment I like to see - tasting the same wine under two closures. I wish I could buy a range of wines that way & do my own experimentation.


David,
It seem to me that the only real remaining question about screwcaps (and for that matter vino-lok and crown caps) is how red wine evolves under them over a significant time span (15-50 years) in comparison to what's known about cork-finished wines. Like you, I'd love to see some head-to-head comparisons of the same red wine sealed under cork and screwcap opened at years 5, 10, 15, etc. to monitor their comparative evolution. Alas, there are still too few wines to try this with: '97 Plumpjack Cab is one obvious choice, and a few Australian and New Zealand wineries also may have produced two versions. What we need is for some big players to bottle, privately perhaps at first, a portion of their wine under screwcap and do those comparisons for the rest of the world. Michael Pronay has informed us that DRC might offer a choice of closures, as has Ch. D'Agassac in Bdx since the '04. When those wines have aged we will see the last piece of the puzzle come clear.

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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Hoke » Tue Jul 29, 2008 2:00 am

Thanks for this post, Sue.

FYI, my company represents Taylors/Wakefield in the USA. Which makes me very happy, both for selling and drinking.

I'm delighted that we share the same high regard for the St. Andrews Riesling Clare Valley. It's a knockout of a wine, innit. The good news for the USA is that we're bringing some of the St. Andrews Riesling in; the bad news is that we're not able to get much, maybe a couple of hundred cases.

Your comments on the cork vs. screwcap tasting pretty much reflect my experiences doing same with Adam Eggins, the Chief Winemaker, and Mitchell Taylor, Family/Company CEO. When we originally brought in the Wakefield wines, we had an opportunity then to taste in comparison, for the first St. Andrews Cabernet we brought in was also the last cork finished Wakefield we brought in. The screwcap version was, as you said, brighter, fresher, more focused, more precise...and much more to my liking.

I can't say that the cork finished wines I had exhibited the range and degree of negatives that Ms. McCarthy described; but then, I likely didn't taste as many comparatives as she did, so was not subject to as much variation. And until I make it over to Clare, I doubt I'll have a chance to do a like comparison again. As I said, everything we bring in is screwcap. And we're up to the 2005 and 2006 reds now.

My time spent with Eggins and Taylor (or at least that part not invoved with drinking copious amounts of beer) only reinforced my believe in screwcaps, Sue. Adam explained, with great passion and great precision, that problems encountered thus far with screwcaps were due either to winemakers not understanding what they were dealing with (he was rather scathing about reductiveness, clearly stating that it was a *expletive deleted* winemaking problem and not a problem of screwcaps) or ot having 'fine-tuned' the necessary adaptation to new technology.

And a funny story---that's not funny ha ha at all---to close: when we brought the first Wakefield St. Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon in country, it was at the time one of the most lauded and beribboned Cabernets in the world. And the very first tasting we had, the first bottle.....was cork tainted!

You mentioned Wakefield, the river, and hence non-Aussie name for the brand. But did you notice what the symbol was on the St. Andrews' label?
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Sue Courtney » Tue Jul 29, 2008 3:06 am

Hoke wrote:You mentioned Wakefield, the river, and hence non-Aussie name for the brand. But did you notice what the symbol was on the St. Andrews' label?

WB Hoke. Long time no see. Yes, love that Riesling.
There is a cross on the label. I assume it is the cross of St Andrew but if that is what it is, what the connection with Scotland is, I don't really know. There is some association with golf and the St Andrews golf course in Scotland, too, IIRC.
You say you are up to the 2005 and 2006 reds now, but the St Andrews Shiraz 2003 has just been released. They still have the 2002 as current release on the website today.
Cheers,
Sue
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Tim York » Tue Jul 29, 2008 6:15 am

Mark Lipton wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:That's the kind of experiment I like to see - tasting the same wine under two closures. I wish I could buy a range of wines that way & do my own experimentation.


David,
It seem to me that the only real remaining question about screwcaps (and for that matter vino-lok and crown caps) is how red wine evolves under them over a significant time span (15-50 years) in comparison to what's known about cork-finished wines. Like you, I'd love to see some head-to-head comparisons of the same red wine sealed under cork and screwcap opened at years 5, 10, 15, etc. to monitor their comparative evolution. Alas, there are still too few wines to try this with: '97 Plumpjack Cab is one obvious choice, and a few Australian and New Zealand wineries also may have produced two versions. What we need is for some big players to bottle, privately perhaps at first, a portion of their wine under screwcap and do those comparisons for the rest of the world. Michael Pronay has informed us that DRC might offer a choice of closures, as has Ch. D'Agassac in Bdx since the '04. When those wines have aged we will see the last piece of the puzzle come clear.

Mark Lipton


That puts my position in a nutshell.

However, over here market acceptance of screwcaps is in its infancy. For rapid consumption wines, people prefer synthetic stoppers which look like the "real thing". If a heavy quality hitter like DRC starts offering screwcaps, I think that it will have a powerful effect in changing attitudes.

(Anecdote - so rare are screwcaps here that, last night, I could not understand why the foil on a bottle of Torres rosé - boring - would not come off. It turned out to be a screwcap.)
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Michael Pronay » Tue Jul 29, 2008 10:32 am

Mark Lipton wrote: Michael Pronay has informed us that DRC might offer a choice of closures, as has Ch. D'Agassac in Bdx since the '04.

Sorry Mark, but I have never mentioned DRC experimenting with screwcaps.

Quite on the contrary, I am 100% sure that DRC turning screwcaps (or even experimenting with them) is a hoax.

OTOH, 2 cases of screwcapped Agassac 2005 safely arrived a few weeks ago ... :D
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Bob Hower » Tue Jul 29, 2008 11:11 am

Hoke wrote:Thanks for this post, Sue.

FYI, my company represents Taylors/Wakefield in the USA. Which makes me very happy, both for selling and drinking.

Your comments on the cork vs. screwcap tasting pretty much reflect my experiences doing same with Adam Eggins, the Chief Winemaker, and Mitchell Taylor, Family/Company CEO. for the brand.


Thanks for your post Hoke. In prior discussions of this issue, there were conflicting ideas about whether the head space left in the bottles (of both cork sealed wines and screwcapped wines) was air, or an inert gas like nitrogen or CO2. Could you shed some light on whether your bottles are sparged or not, and if so, what gas is used, and also if the practice is the same for corks and screwcaps? Another interesting aspect of this issue is how wines age in the bottle and what role slow oxygenation through the closure plays in bottle aging. Can you shed any light on this? Are the screwcaps designed to let tiny amounts of oxygen in over a long period of time, or is the thought to completey seal them from any ingress of O2?
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Oliver McCrum » Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:23 pm

Sue,

I am fascinated by the comment about non-TCA variability in cork-finished wines; that's my experience, too.
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Mark Lipton » Tue Jul 29, 2008 6:42 pm

Michael Pronay wrote:
Mark Lipton wrote: Michael Pronay has informed us that DRC might offer a choice of closures, as has Ch. D'Agassac in Bdx since the '04.

Sorry Mark, but I have never mentioned DRC experimenting with screwcaps.

Quite on the contrary, I am 100% sure that DRC turning screwcaps (or even experimenting with them) is a hoax.


So sorry to have misattributed that comment, Michael. Now I wonder who it was who did inform me, as you usually are the first source I get my "Old World producer turns to screwcaps" news. Can't say that this revelation will affect my buying decisions, though :wink:

OTOH, 2 cases of screwcapped Agassac 2005 safely arrived a few weeks ago ... :D


Good news! I'll await further reports on their development.

Mark Lipton

p.s. Jean and I are talking seriously about jointly attending next year's "Amino Acids" meeting at U. of Vienna. (It happens during the summer tourist season.) If we do make the trip, we might finally get a chance to open a bottle or two together.
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Anders Källberg » Tue Jul 29, 2008 6:57 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:What we need is for some big players to bottle, privately perhaps at first, a portion of their wine under screwcap and do those comparisons for the rest of the world.

AFAIK, Penfolds has been doing parallel bottlings with screwcap and cork for some while now, also with their reds. Has anything been heard from their results?
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Howie Hart » Tue Jul 29, 2008 11:26 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:...Taylors has its home in the Clare Valley in South Australia and is known as Wakefield in some parts of the world - probably because there is a port producer of the same name...
In addition, there is (was?) a Taylor Wine Company that was founded in Hammondsport, NY (Finger Lakes) in 1880. Since 1970 it had been sold and changed hands several times, but I believe the name is still owned by Constellation, but there is no Taylor winery there any more. One of the descendants of the founder was Walter S. Taylor, who founded Bully Hill Winery on the original Taylor Wine Company property in the late 1960's. Walter, who passed away a few years ago, was also an accomplished artist and designed many of Bully Hill's labels. I had the pleasure of meeting him a few times. LINK: Walter S. Taylor
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Michael Pronay » Wed Jul 30, 2008 10:43 am

Mark Lipton wrote:
Michael Pronay wrote:
Mark Lipton wrote: Michael Pronay has informed us that DRC might offer a choice of closures, as has Ch. D'Agassac in Bdx since the '04.

Sorry Mark, but I have never mentioned DRC experimenting with screwcaps.

Quite on the contrary, I am 100% sure that DRC turning screwcaps (or even experimenting with them) is a hoax.

So sorry to have misattributed that comment, Michael. Now I wonder who it was who did inform me, as you usually are the first source I get my "Old World producer turns to screwcaps" news. Can't say that this revelation will affect my buying decisions, though :wink:

My educated guess sources the hoax to decanter.com, but I am not able to prove it.

Mark Lipton wrote:p.s. Jean and I are talking seriously about jointly attending next year's "Amino Acids" meeting at U. of Vienna. (It happens during the summer tourist season.) If we do make the trip, we might finally get a chance to open a bottle or two together.

Excellent idea! Since I normally do not leave Vienna in the summer (except for one or the other one or two-day trip), the chances of meeting are high. Consider an evening at our place, Catrina cooking, and let's inpect my chaotic cellar in order to find something palatable ... :D

Anders Källberg wrote:
Mark Lipton wrote:What we need is for some big players to bottle, privately perhaps at first, a portion of their wine under screwcap and do those comparisons for the rest of the world.

AFAIK, Penfolds has been doing parallel bottlings with screwcap and cork for some while now, also with their reds. Has anything been heard from their results?

I have talked to Peter Gago, Penfold's chief wine-maker, quite a few times about this, the first time in 2003, and what he has stated (after well over 10 years of experimenting) has always been consistent: "Top red wines under screwcap do age, of course, albeit at a slightly lower pace than under cork: like bottles from a very cold cellar compared to those from a normal cellar. But then, the results are extremely consistent, while there is always bottle variation under cork, well beyond detectable TCA."
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Hoke » Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:05 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:
Hoke wrote:You mentioned Wakefield, the river, and hence non-Aussie name for the brand. But did you notice what the symbol was on the St. Andrews' label?

WB Hoke. Long time no see. Yes, love that Riesling.
There is a cross on the label. I assume it is the cross of St Andrew but if that is what it is, what the connection with Scotland is, I don't really know. There is some association with golf and the St Andrews golf course in Scotland, too, IIRC.
You say you are up to the 2005 and 2006 reds now, but the St Andrews Shiraz 2003 has just been released. They still have the 2002 as current release on the website today.
Cheers,
Sue



Bingo, Sue!

The symbol is the St. Andrews Cross of Scotland. And St. Andrews was an old winery that the Taylors purchased and restored.

And they serve St. Andrews (the wine) at St. Andrews (the club and course).

Additional, and I think interesting trivia: On each and every bottle produced by the Taylors there appears, in some form, three seahorses. May be on label, may be on (screw)cap. When they were working on the old winery facility on the Wakefield River they found out they were on this huge layer of ancient seabed, and the land thereabout was totally encrusted with billions and billions of seahorses!.
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Hoke » Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:13 pm

Bob Hower wrote:
Hoke wrote:Thanks for this post, Sue.

FYI, my company represents Taylors/Wakefield in the USA. Which makes me very happy, both for selling and drinking.

Your comments on the cork vs. screwcap tasting pretty much reflect my experiences doing same with Adam Eggins, the Chief Winemaker, and Mitchell Taylor, Family/Company CEO. for the brand.


Thanks for your post Hoke. In prior discussions of this issue, there were conflicting ideas about whether the head space left in the bottles (of both cork sealed wines and screwcapped wines) was air, or an inert gas like nitrogen or CO2. Could you shed some light on whether your bottles are sparged or not, and if so, what gas is used, and also if the practice is the same for corks and screwcaps? Another interesting aspect of this issue is how wines age in the bottle and what role slow oxygenation through the closure plays in bottle aging. Can you shed any light on this? Are the screwcaps designed to let tiny amounts of oxygen in over a long period of time, or is the thought to completey seal them from any ingress of O2?


Bob:

I spoke to the winemaker at Taylors/Wakefield. He said they do sparge each bottle with nitrogen, and after filling they 'topfill' with nitrogen before capping. The seal is meant to be impermeable, although the winemaker said that, of course, aging and development does take place. It is predictable and controlled, however, and most of all, consistent, which is not the case with cork finished bottles.

Also spoke to the winemakers at two of our CA wineries. In both instances they sparged, then topfilled with nitrogen, for both cork finished and screwcap finished wines.

In the case of the CA wineries, they currently screwcap whites and young early-consumption reds (although they have done trials and feel confident that from a winemaker's point of view, screwcaps would be preferable for ANY wine over cork closure. At Taylors/Wakefield they long ago decided that total screwcap was the way to go.

As one winemaker put it (and the others all echoed the sentiment): "The screwcap is as close as I can some...right now...to making sure that what the buyer tastes is what I intended the wine to be. I don't have that assurance with cork."
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Bob Hower » Wed Jul 30, 2008 9:56 pm

Hoke wrote:Bob:
I spoke to the winemaker at Taylors/Wakefield. He said they do sparge each bottle with nitrogen, and after filling they 'topfill' with nitrogen before capping. The seal is meant to be impermeable, although the winemaker said that, of course, aging and development does take place. It is predictable and controlled, however, and most of all, consistent, which is not the case with cork finished bottles.

Also spoke to the winemakers at two of our CA wineries. In both instances they sparged, then topfilled with nitrogen, for both cork finished and screwcap finished wines.

In the case of the CA wineries, they currently screwcap whites and young early-consumption reds (although they have done trials and feel confident that from a winemaker's point of view, screwcaps would be preferable for ANY wine over cork closure. At Taylors/Wakefield they long ago decided that total screwcap was the way to go.

As one winemaker put it (and the others all echoed the sentiment): "The screwcap is as close as I can some...right now...to making sure that what the buyer tastes is what I intended the wine to be. I don't have that assurance with cork."


Thanks so much for clearing up some of my confusion about this. Do you know of any producers who are experimenting with the Vino-Lok closure? It seems as if it might have all the virtues of a screwtop, along with some added cork-like aesthetics. Is it just too expensive?
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Re: WTN: Taylors vs Wakefield / Cork vs Screwcap experiment

Postby Michael Pronay » Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:34 am

Bob, the potential problems with Vino-Lok glass stoppers are:

1) In contrary to screw-caps with (anecdotally) proven 40 years+ consistency, glass stoppers have only been around for half a decade or so.

2) Rupert Summerer (Langenlois, Kamptal), the Austrian glas stopper pioneer who bottles his entire production since vintage 2003 under glass, reports no problems whatsoever. But I have found bottle variation in a glass stoppered 2007 Traminer from Tement (Südsteiermark/Southern Styria): one bottle oxidzed, the other fine. Collegues also report a certain amount of inconsistency/bottle variation with glass stoppered bottles, but I cannot talk about rates here.
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