Chemistry lesson on screw-cap wines

Mike Tipping

Mike Tipping

First published in What's On by

Barrier properties of closures, that’s a fascinating topic isn’t it? Perhaps not to everyone, but it really should be of interest, if you like your wine.

I’ve been in London this week for the trade wine fair. A study of the way oxygen affects wines was the topic of a seminar I attended. It was all a bit like a chemistry lesson actually, except that the practical involved tasting half-a-dozen faulty wines.

Two were infected with TCA, the compound that causes corked wines and another pair were oxidised. The last couple were reductive, which describes wine with an excess of sulphur – a condition that does nothing for a wine’s aromatics.

It’s the reductive wines that you can be most proactive with, because all is not lost in terms of a remedy for the tell-tale burnt rubber and bad egg aromas that too much sulphur can cause. It’s a particularly common fault in screw-cap wines, which tend to be most airtight.

Actually if you open your bottle an hour before drinking, those sulphur smells will usually disappear. There is a speedier way to do this however, as recommended by one of the speakers, Master Sommelier Ronan Sayburn of Hotel du Vin.

Simply pour out half a glass of wine and replace the screw-cap. Then shake the bottle, as if making a cocktail. This doesn’t look nice but it does do the job, the smell should be gone.

This week’s selection are closed with a screw-cap. They showed no technical faults when I opened them, all I got was the taste of clean, well-made wine.

If you like full-flavoured rosé, I can highly recommend Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne Rosé 2010. A blend of merlot, tannat, cabernet and syrah with a vivid pink colour, it is laden with cherry and strawberry flavours, floral notes and a savoury spiciness. This southern French pink is good value for money too.

The off-dry and perfumed Villa Maria Private Bin Gewürztraminer 2010 from New Zealand would be a good foil for lighter spicy dishes. Aromas of Turkish delight give way to lychees, pear and honey on the palate.

Gewürztraminer can be flabby but this one has a refreshing lift of acidity. McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2005, from the Hunter Valley in Oz, is oak aged and would be perfect with poultry.

Semillon is one of those whites that develop in the bottle very well, so this should keep on improving for another five years at least. At present it tastes of liquid sunshine with long flavours of lemon, tropical fruit, honey and straw. It will be even more complex given time.

Domaine de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne Rosé 2010, £6.95 from from vineyardsdirect.com 18/20.

Villa Maria Private Bin Gewürztraminer 2010, £9.99 at Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Majestic and Wine Rack 18/20.

McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2005, around £9.99 at Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Majestic 17/20.

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