Wednesday night mistake
Something happened a few Wednesday evenings ago that caused me to decide that, rather than speak specifically about a few wines, I would concentrate more on solving a problem.
It has to do with opening older bottles with corks and, while I am at it, let me do my best to create a picture with words on the best way to remove a screw cap.
About 90 per cent of all New Zealand wines are under screw cap and I understand that shortly they will ban the use of corks altogether. Anyway, a few years back, I had my hand firmly grasped on the top of a bottle of Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir and, in the presence of one of the owners, I was about to unscrew it. He politely took it away from me and explained that one should never grip the capsule that is to be removed, as occasionally the top and the skirt below it, may twist together and then it is difficult to actually get the bottle opened.
Instead, he firmly gripped the neck of the bottle below the capsule with his right hand and then with his left hand he held the bottle tightly and turned it in a clockwise motion. Metal snapped and, without even touching it, I could see that the top was loose and could be turned and removed. I always use this method today. If you would like to enjoy a really quite wonderful wine you should open (correctly) a bottle of Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris. The cooler vintage of 2014 has resulted in aromas of white peach and pear blossom mingled with underlying crisp red apple notes. The palate displays ripe succulent peach notes, while the mid palate is full, creamy and well textured. The wine has a rich, spice infused finish. $22.40.
Most of us do not often drink wines that are over ten years old, but when we do, they are usually quite special and probably fairly pricey. The odds are very much that they will have to be opened by removing a cork and a problem starts to emerge as, once a cork is ten years old, it can start to soften and break quite easily.
Here is my Wednesday night story: Without paying much attention, I opened a bottle of red and handed a glass to my wife for evaluation.
The plan was that it was Shafer One Point Five 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. I knew that Robert Parker had written: “94/100 and one of the most consistent and fairly priced wines in the high-flying landscape that is the Napa Valley. This is a flat-out delicious bottle to drink now.” One would expect enthusiasm for such a wine, after all we sell the 2012 and 2013 for $99, but her reaction seemed almost over the top. Slightly suspicious, I glanced at the bottle and realised I had uncorked a bottle of Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. Now this perfect wine is still on offer from our company for $212.45. For comparison, let me again quote Parker: “100/100. One of the great so-called ‘first growths’ of Napa is Shafer’s 2003 cabernet sauvignon from their Stags Leap vineyard known as Hillside Select. This has been one of the top dozen or so wines in every vintage for over 15 years.
It is an utterly perfect wine, surpassing almost everything else made in 2003. It possesses everything one could desire in a cabernet sauvignon — minerality, flowers, creme de cassis, blackberries, velvety tannins, a skyscraper texture and perfect balance.”
The One Pinot Five had been sitting on my desk as a customer had returned it saying that “it was no good”. I pulled the cork out and intended to pour the wine away, but discovered that it had broken in half and been restuffed in the bottle. I suspected that the remaining inch or so had protected what was probably a fine wine. Not a wasteful sort, I took it home. At about the same time another customer told me that his family had a few bottles of the 2003 Hillside Select to enjoy with their Christmas dinner and every cork had broken. Being resourceful, they pushed the corks down in the bottle and enjoyed this perfect wine. Two bottles also came back from a restaurant. It was time to act and so I decided to take one home and figure it out. The cork came out perfectly in one piece and so, here is the rule:
If you only have a cork screw then make sure that you insert it all the way to the bottom of the cork. Very slowly pull the cork up about a quarter of an inch. Wait thirty seconds, and repeat — this allows the pressure to equalise on the inside of the bottle. Then, very slowly, remove the cork in steps. This may work, and often does, but far better if you have a two-pronged Ah-So opener. Gently push the longer prong down between cork and bottle — about half an inch — and then insert the shorter prong. Rock back and forth until fully inserted and then gently, and slowly, twist and pull out the cork.
Life without my Ah-So would indeed be a challenge as they work beautifully, but it may take a little practice to master the use of one.
This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm.</i>