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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"

Performing Seals - Cork and Screwcap Head to Head
© Murray Almond
(Photos © Sue Courtney)
4 February 2002

The major topic of contention in discussions about Screwcaps is in how the wine ages in comparison to cork particularly when there are so many other variables than the seal; storage conditions and light all play a factor. So when Richmond Grove recently released some of the 1998 Rieslings in both cork and screwcap, I grabbed some to perform a little trial of own with the 1998 Richmond Grove Barossa Riesling.

The trial was done with my regular tasting cohorts, TGD, NDN and Gail. I told them the theme was Whites; ABC (anything but Chardonnay) and they duly arrive, bottled in hand. We looked at my pair first, they didn't know the identity of the wines at all as the wines were served completely blind by being decanted into separate swing-top bottles and masked. I also didn't know which one was which as I'd marked the bottom of one and then asked my wife to put them both in bags. In order to eliminate as much variation as possible they came out of the cellar and into the fridge at the same time, then out of the fridge and decanted at the same time prior to serving. The wines were poured into Tasting Glasses side by side.

We looked at each wine separately, with my notes below, and then we discussed the wines,

Comparing tasting glasses
Richmond Grove rieslings in cork (left and right) and screwcap (center).

1998 Richmond Grove Barossa Riesling - in Stelvin screwcap
Pale straw colour, with minute bubbles on the glass. The nose was lively with nice lemon/lime characters. The palate carried through the flavours with plenty of acid as well. There's good balance considering all the acid, with a nice underlying layer of secondary flavours provided added complexity, the wine finishes long.

1998 Richmond Grove Barossa Riesling - in cork
Straw colour. Slightly dumb nose showing varietal Riesling characters. Palate has decent balance with good acid with a slightly honeyed mouthfeel, slightly bitter on the back palate with a medium length finish.

Head to Head
It is clear that the cork affected the Riesling far more than expected. On the night we had three other whites, all sealed in cork, and all exhibiting vibrant aromas. The Richmond Grove in cork was the only one to exhibit this dumb character on the nose and the medium-short finish. We could only presume that it had been afflicted by very mild taint.

Given that, the other tasters were not particularly surprised that these were both 1998 wines, but actually thought they were from different regions. Although having said that Gail thought the screwcap, while having a paler colour, had the greater complexity of an older wine.

All agreed that the wine in screwcaps was better than the wine in cork, although that would be the case with this mildly tainted bottle opened next to a bottle with an untainted cork as well.

So we can't draw any substantial head to head conclusions from this trial, but we can say that the 1998 Richmond Grove Barossa Riesling in Stelvin is already showing some nice development with three years in bottle and gives every indication of being a long-lived wine.

I have a couple more matching pairs to compare in future years.

Following that we look at the other wines, which presented a wonderful variety of white styles.

1999 Blanck Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France
This was NDN's wine and a nicely selected wine it was. Classically Alsacian with old slate flinty characters and background spice that is the hallmark of a Textbook example of the style. Wonderful mouthfeel although just a slight bitterness on the back palate before a wonderfully clean long finish. A great wine and at $30aud competes very well in the aromatic white price bracket here.

1998 Grey Sands Pinot Gris, Glengarry, Tasmania
Gail presented this wine with a wry smile, as she does so often. I should have nailed this variety as I commented on a wisp of pink colour through the pale straw, but missed the bold clue to Pinot Gris. The nose had nice spicey character. The palate showed the buttery traces of malolactic fermentation. It had lifted mouthfeel, good acid and a long finish. A highly pleasurable, if idiosyncratic wine but I found it delicious. The couple of years in the bottle has shown handsome development, a great wine for asian-styled food..

Grey Sands winery is one that has slipped under the radar. Gail was referred it by Dr Bailey Carrodus of Yarra Yering who had uncovered it a few years ago. If the other Grey Sands wines are a match to this it's a winery well worth watching.

And so to TGD's wine.

1994 Mount Mary Triolet Yarra Valley, Victoria
True gold colour, nice lifted complex nose with complex fruit character with a slight overlay of toasty age. Great mouthfeel with broader complexity on the palate. Great long finish. I picked it as the Triolet have enjoyed a few of these wines, but underestimated the age. It has developed beautifully which is further testament to the ageworthy characters of the Mount Mary wines.

A great night's tasting, only marred by the unfortunate performance of the Richmond Grove under cork. However there will be other times, other tastings.

© Murray Almond
4 February 2002

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