Mt. Difficulty

Popping the Cork on the Screwcap Debate

Popping the Cork on the Screwcap Debate

Post by Chuck Hayward | August 7th, 2012

The debate over corks and wine is causing controversy once again, proving its unique ability to be an issue of contention for the foreseeable future. Much ballyhoo has been raised by the cork industry recently regarding Christian Canute, the owner of Rusden Winery in the Barossa Valley, and his decision  to forswear screwcaps in favor of corks (despite the fact that he only used screwcaps for one of the ten wines in his portfolio and even that was only for a few vintages).

Top: 1999 Clare Valley semillon, 28 months after bottling. Bottom: After 125 months

In other news, UC Davis and PlumpJack Winery recently announced the commencement of a two year study that will attempt to determine, once and for all, how different closures affect the ability of wines to age. (Read more about the study here). This research is taking place despite the fact that the Australian Wine and Research Institute (AWRI) has been involved in a similar project for more than a decade. That study, analyzing 14 different types of closures, is in the process of concluding that screwcaps are superior when compared to other types of seals. Looking at the picture above (courtesy of Old Bridge Cellars), I don’t think I would want any of the wines on the right side of the picture. And by the way, the screwcap bottles are on the left. (more…)

Tastes Like Home: Experimenting With Waipara Riesling

Tastes Like Home: Experimenting with Waipara Riesling

Post by Chuck Hayward | September 28th, 2011

Terroir is a hot topic, no doubt. The idea that winemakers are required to transmit the specific qualities of a plot of land to a finished wine is gaining traction, and for many critics, it is considered bad form for the vigneron to leave an imprint that reflects personal style. That camp believes the winemaker’s role is to act as minimally as possible and take a hands-off approach in order to highlight a wine’s terroir.

However, I think it’s impossible to separate the impact of man from winemaking. We as humans are the ones who recognize superior vs. inferior terroir. Growers decide what grapes to plant and how to grow them. Winemakers make endless judgments about when to pick grapes, what yeast to use, how long to age, and so on. The actual decision to practice minimalist winemaking is probably the most important choice that can be made.

Wine writer Dan Berger inspects a bottle of his favorite varietal

Cut to an interesting tasting recently sponsored by New Zealand Winegrowers, responsible for educating consumers and the trade about kiwi wines. In 2010, twelve New Zealand winemakers agreed to create wine from the same batch of fruit— riesling from the Waipara growing region just outside of Christchurch—and were given four tons of uncrushed fruit from Mud House vineyards. They each produced 250 cases of wine at their own facilities, scattered throughout six of the country’s growing regions. (more…)

Separation of Pinots: New Zealand & More Mt. Difficulty

Separation of Pinots: New Zealand & More Mt. Difficulty

Post by Chuck Hayward | August 25th, 2011

Back when New Zealand pinot noir first entered the US market, our collective knowledge of these wines was infinitesimal. The country’s first serious attempts at producing pinot noir production had begun only a decade earlier, so the 1995/96 vintages that made the initial splash had few reference points. At that time, no one could say how Marlborough differed from Martinborough. Rather, the question was how the pinots of New Zealand compared to those from Burgundy, California and Oregon.

As the pinot noir industry matured, it became easier to understand the unique attributes and qualities among New Zealand’s growing regions, which was important so that customers could purchase the style of wine they prefer. Almost right away, however, it became apparent that not all wines from Central Otago were the same and that Marlborough pinots from the valley floor were markedly different compared to those from the southern hills. The quest to learn about a New Zealand wine appellation’s subregionality became important rather quickly.

In Central Otago, where subregional differences first became apparent to me, there are 6-7 loosely defined districts whose pinot noirs offer their own unique interpretations of the grape. Martinborough, Marlborough and Waipara also see differing pinot styles depending on their site, while Hawkes Bay Bordeaux-style red blends show incredible diversity that can be attributed to subregional differences.

Mt. Difficulty Single Site Pinots from 2009

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