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   Copyright © Ric Einstein 2009





From the Mailbag and Other Things  (21 December)


None of these topics warranted a Snippet in their own right, but they have been clogging up my mail box for some time, and between them should make for interesting reading.


Cost of Plonk

If you think wine is expensive in your part of the world, wherever you happen to be, it can’t be as bad as this example sent by Conrad Dudley-Bateman.  He wrote, “I have been travelling through Europe for the past three months including visiting wineries in Bordeaux and Freixinet. I was at a restaurant called 360 in Istanbul where they had a current vintage bottle of Yellowtail for the equivalent of $126 Australian!!! If you’re looking for wine investment, buy a pallet and ship it to Turkey!”


On Alcohol and Salt

Reid Bosward of Kaesler also had some very interesting comments. “….To me its like brettanomyces, it’s always been there. Something happened about five years ago whereby you were not worth your weight as a winemaker if you couldn’t spot it in a wine. It got to the point where tasters would look for that character first; once it was in the clear they could proceed to assess the wine. Tasters got so acute that they could see it in every wine they tasted and many great wines where shit canned. Point is, if you look hard enough you will find it everywhere, Peter Godden at the AWRI has proven it analytically.


It’s the same as alcohol, only alcohol is a little easier to see for tasters who don’t taste multiple wines a day. All tasters want to be knowledgeable, and I think that’s a good thing, until objectivity fades out.


I think if the tasters out there really want something to learn about and have an opinion on, then they should start tuning their palates to salt; it’s everywhere. Once they start spotting that and begin pushing back, then they’ll have a cause worth blogging about.


Salt characters in wine is a genuine problem that will continue to get worse irrespective of alcohol.”


Biodynamic Wine, Voodoo and Racism

Hardly a day goes by without an email and some good insights from Brian Miller hitting my in box. An article titled Voodoo on the Vine was published in the San Francisco Weekly which details the origin of the Rudolf Steiner approach to biodynamic agriculture.


According to the article, “... Depending upon how virtuous a life you led, you could be reincarnated in an "ascending" or "descending" race. Steiner believed Africans, Asians, American Indians, and Jews were of a lower level than the Germanic race ...”


“... the foundations of Biodynamic agriculture. The system was essentially delivered whole in 1924 ... out of the head of Rudolf Steiner – a self-professed clairvoyant and occult philosopher from Austria who conceived of Biodynamics during his telepathic visits to the realm of spirits he claimed existed "behind" our material world ..."


"... the vineyard's chief gardener, slowly motored his pickup past the piles. Viscous red fluid was slathered over the truck's back flap; with every bump in the road, a bovine nose protruded momentarily from the bed.

The fluid was blood. Only hours earlier it had coursed through the veins of a 1,500-pound animal; now it congealed on the liner of Eierman's truck. The bull's eyes stared serenely skyward while its majestic horns barely fit within the truck bed. A calf's head, shorn of its jaw muscles, bounced around alongside it ...
When asked just what was going on, Eierman shot a glance at Jessica LaBounty, Benziger's marketing manager, who closed her eyes and gave a quick nod. The gardener proceeded to explain that the severed heads were a vital ingredient in Biodynamic Preparation No. 505: Finely ground oak bark will be placed into the cows' fresh skulls and stored in a shallow, moist hole or rain bucket throughout autumn and winter. The resultant concoction is then applied, in nearly undetectable quantities, to the gargantuan compost piles; Benziger's promotional literature claims it "stimulates the plant's immune system and promotes healing ..."

Food for thought and it shows that even in principles based on the most crackpot philosophy, some good aspects may be found.


A Question of Balance


Arnie Boyci wrote, “Reading your below tasting note on Lazy Ballerina, I panicked and opened a bottle myself (Shiraz/Viognier) to check out the cork. There was a millimetre of a penetration around the cork but not the inside . What do you mean by twin top cork or condom end? It looks like the cork is covered with a thin film so even though wine penetrated between the cork and neck of the bottle just a millimetre there was no penetration into the cork at all.


It is a brilliant wine for $16. Why do you think it will only improve in short term? To me it looks like a keeper, all the fruit, acid and tannins are there in pretty good balance.”


Part of my tasting note reads, “I actually tried this wine twice. I wasn't happy with the first bottle and thought there may have been some variation caused by the twin top cork. The second bottle was much better and confirmed the failure of the cork in the first bottle. I might add, that with the second bottle the wine had penetrated up past the condom end of the cork, so if there was any taint in the body of a cork proper, it could still have got into the wine. In my bigoted opinion, twin top corks are a very poor alternative, and hopefully with the next vintage this producer will ditch them. Diam are a far better alternative for those that want a natural cork, cork based alternative.”


My response to Arnie was, “The cork on this wine has a protective film on the end which is supposed to stop TCA. However, I have seen far too many wines sealed under this closure with cork taint to think it’s a better alternative than Diam or screwcap. And it’s not much better than plain cork in my opinion.


If the plastic film is not a 100% seal, and it’s not in all cases, or a tiny drop of wine penetrates past the protective barrier, TCA in the wine is possible.


As far as longevity is concerned, there is a big difference between improving and holding. It may last a reasonable time but that does not mean it will get better. It does have good balance, but it’s approachable now and fairly well integrated. It does not have the structure or components (potential complexity) to improve in the long term.


Arnie sent me a follow up question. “Can you please explain a bit what structure or components supposed to be there in a wine to improve in long term other then fruit, tannins and acid?

Don't get me wrong I am not opposing to you or questioning you, just want to find out more .”


I responded, “For a wine to last, it must have fruit, tannins and acid in balance – as you rightly say. If a wine is fruit forward and has minimal tannins, it has been designed to be consumed young.


If there is heap of tannins that bury the fruit, but the fruit is there, it will last and needs time for the tannins to integrate and then even drop out into sediment.


As I mentioned previously, there is a difference between wines ability to age and its ability to improve. Wine can age but not improve. For a wine to improve, a well as the structural elements of tannins, fruit and acid, it needs a heap of other things.


For example, if the fruit is over ripe it won’t improve (as well as expected.) If it shows a mix of under ripe and overripe fruit, it may soften but it will never turn into a great wine. Optimal ripeness is just one component. Another is complexity. If say a Shiraz, has been cropped at 8 tons to the acre, it is very unlikely to improve. If it has been pumped full of water (irrigated) and from a hot climate, it is unlikely to improve. If it comes from old vines, or even young vines, that have low to medium cropping levels, has had minimal water, making the vines struggle a bit, had a long, slow, even ripening period, then the chances are it will improve.”


In other words, its all about the quality of the fruit. Ordinary fruit will never produce a wine that will be great. It may last and soften, but it won’t have the components (complexity or structure) to improve.


It’s All Your Fault!

Yes I mean you. You are the one who is responsible for the possible extinction of a heap of rare and endangered species, like the Iberian lynx, black storks and booted eagles, which are already disappearing in some areas. How uncaring of you, you naughty person you! Shame on you!


Well, you do consume wine with a screwcap don’t you? Of bloody course you do, so that’s confirmed, and it is your fault! Well it is if you believe the “fear, blame and emotional blackmailing” wankers in the cork industry, who are at it again, just for a change.


According to this news story, which in reality is nothing more than lazy journalism that rehashed a press release as though it is credible news, the people who drink screwcap wines are responsible for the decline in the cork forests. The decline in demand for corks, in reality, only came about for one reason. The quality of corks the Portuguese producers have been foisting on wine producers were unacceptable. Far too many bottles of expensive wine were being wrecked by a fifty cent tree bark plug. Instead of taking responsibility for their own industry, and making a better product, the cork producers are blaming you, the consumer, for the cork forest’s potential demise.


There are new technology corks available and they are bloody reliable. Hardy’s are using them for their sparkling wines, and I am yet to have a defective bottle that has been sealed under these new closures. Unfortunately, the average consumer has no idea what sort of cork they will find when they look at a bottle that is sealed with a cork.


Cork producers have very effectively shot themselves in the foot and are now blaming the consumer for their loss of blood. Oh! And they would appreciate it if you could pay for their hospital bill too?


Feel free to submit your comments!

Copyright © Ric Einstein 2008