Chuck’s Down Under

Recorked: Authenticating A Bottle Part I

Once a year, Penfolds Winery goes to the major cities of Australia and offers customers a free inspection and analysis of any Penfolds wine over 15 years of age. A team of Penfolds winemakers, including senior winemaker Peter Gago, perform this function and if necessary, will open, taste, top-up, recork and recapsule wines that might require a more detailed assessment because of low fill levels or leaking corks. A certifcate is attached to any bottle that passes these tests and is entered in a database to further guarantee the authenticity of the recorking process. There is no winery on the planet that performs this free service for their customers.

Peter and the senior winemaking staff of Penfolds recently visited San Francisco for the only recorking clinic in the US market. I have had the fortune to see many clinics in Australia but this clinic was extra special as I brought a 1959 Grange from one of JJ Buckley consignors to be assessed… and possibly rejected!! It was a nerve-racking experience as the wine was uncorked and then tasted.

You will find out what happened when you read my detailed blog on the Penfolds Recorking Clinic very soon!!

Penfolds Chief Winemaker, Peter Gago

Chief Winemaker Peter Gago explains the recorking process to the group at Cellar 360 in San Francisco.

From The Front: On Trophy Wines & Purple Teeth

The Australian wine industry is famous for its system of wine shows which hand out gold, silver, and bronze medals for top rated wines as well as trophies for those wines deemed to be the best of class or best of exposition. In many cases, winning a trophy can bring increased wine sales. But what really counts is the publicity for those winners and more importantly, the recognition from their peers in producing a top quality wine.

The wine show system is not without controversy. Critics claim that by tasting so many wines, only the big and bold styles are recognized. Conspiracy theorists say that wineries submit entries that are not actually the “official” bottling released to the general public. Others argue that there are simply too many wine shows. Be that as it may, the Australian show system isn’t going away.

I am currently judging at The Sydney International Wine Competition 2010 as one of 12 judges tasked with assessing almost 2000 wines. The panel includes five Masters of Wine, winemakers, journalists, and even a doctor. Over four days, we have sipped, slurped, and bemoaned the state of our purple teeth. Tonight after the judging is officially over, we all get dressed up for a formal thank you dinner and speeches- a tradition in the Australian wine industry. I’ll have more to say about the Sydney show as well as some comments about the show system in a later blog. Cheers!

One of the first of many, many flights...

But one of many flights...

Chuck’s Down Under Discoveries

Coming soon to the blogosphere: News & New Arrivals From Down Under by Chuck Hayward.

“Welcome to my new blog!! I’m looking forward to writing about one of may favorite subjects, the wines of Australia and New Zealand (with a little bit of south Africa added to the mix). These countries are producing some of the most exciting wines today, made by passionate winemakers and grapegrowers working in some of the most beautiful places in the world. I hope you’ll sign up to receive updates as they are posted and I look forward to reading your comments. Thanks for checking in!” – Chuck