Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Almost as good as me...

I’ve been accused before of bias, it’s not really anything I’m bothered about. However there are times when I feel like arguing, and when I do I really like to argue.
Screw caps.
Screw caps are pretty much accepted by the general wine going public, however there is still the occasional idiot that tries to tell me that wine won’t age under them.
I’m a 1981 vintage, I’m usually of the opinion that I’m the best thing to come out of what was a particularly miserable vintage year across Europe. I’d heard rumours that Penfolds made a reasonable Grange and that there was the odd bit of decent South Australian wine still extant, but I’d not really seen any.
Not until the Negotiant UK tasting. Robert Hill Smith, the patriarch of the Yalumba group had brought over some museum releases. Two old vintages of Pewsey Vale’s Eden Valley Riesling. A wine seemingly built for longevity, and a wine that almost miraculously was bottled under screwcap from 1971 until 1983 (when market pressure forced a swith back to cork).
1981 and 1986. The first, my vintage, and as long as I’ve been in the wine trade as rare as hens teeth to come across, the second one of the great South Australian vintages, Henschke’s Hill of Grace from that year is feted as one of the greats among greats.
The 1981 Pewsey Vale, under a pristine screw cap. Bright amber robe and a thrilling nose of lightly burn toast, marmalade, some hints of spearmint, touches of kerosene and fabulous complexity. A wine to think of on late night train journeys, a wine that, at least for a moment makes one think of a benevolent god.
The 1986 by comparison was half dead, salty madeirised caramel on the nose, the toast and marmalade that should have enlivened the nose all muted and covered with the indiscriminate smudge of slow oxidative death.

Seeing a wine that’s faded as badly as the 86 under cork alongside a wine 5 years older that looks ten years younder is a saddening thing. One that a better closure really ought to have avoided.

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