This is easily the oldest screw-top I have opened. The Australians are the only people who have come forward to date with 20 years of side-by-side screw-top and cork closure comparisons on exactly the same bottles of exactly the same wine. They became convinced of screw-tops SO EARLY in the game and if you’ve noticed, almost everything Aussie is screw closure–EVERYTHING below 20 bucks and a good half above. This is a 2004 which makes it exactly 11 years old and probably been in bottle 9 1/2 years. It also was purchased from an unconditioned liquor store on the top shelf. Not exactly perfect provenance. WE HAVE NO CLUE WHAT SCREW-TOPS ARE GOING TO DO!!! This is why this is so fascinating. Check some of this stuff out:
First of all, there is wine OUTSIDE the seal-surface. See that ring of dried wine?
This means either the wine was subjected to fairly serious temperature fluctuations while on its side or inverted -OR- the screw-top flat-out LEAKED. I’m going to go with the former.
There is a ring of dried wine on the OUTSIDE of the seal-disc:
Now, let’s all gather round and sing Kum-Ba-Ya and think about this fact for a minute or so. IF this were a bottle with a cork closure, would it look like this:
And most importantly: How would it taste? We all know leaking or slightly bypassed corks do not necessarily spell a death-knell for a wine, but it never helps, right? A cork gets slightly bypassed through temperature variations nearly impossible to avoid in the distribution process and with an absolutely perfectly pure cork and a young, vibrant bottle, we pray nothing happens. But add variables like imperfect corks and delicate wines like Pinot, Syrah or anything with a little age on it and what are the possibilities? The screw-closure can do much to negate this variable. Instead of a saturated or bypassed, soggy cork, you still have a sealing surface with a little wine on the outside–which will spoil–but it will not drag its issues into the bottle because a seal remains.
And what of that seal. We all wonder what that disk will do in 30 years. Instead of a rather predictable, naturally-occurring chunk of natural material keeping our wine in, we have a sophisticated lamination of several man-made materials. How long will they last? Will the wine break them down? Sure screw-tops are made for early-drinking wines but they are engineering them now to allow minuscule oxygen intrusion–to replicate cork-aging–and what will this disc look like in 30 years? 40 years? 50? There IS NO PROOF! I’m sure you all wipe the disk with your finger after opening to see the residue collected there. Here’s this one:
And that is after several wipes. It is definitely stained–nyet: impregnated with wine. Compare this to a 4yo Barossa:
Perfectly clean. (Both Stelvins) Also, it is interesting to note there is dust under the perforations inside the capsule:
This all just goes to show what uncharted territory this all is. Just file it all away for future reference. And on to the wine!
Bright impenetrable garnet with clear edges. Dumb and funky at first, then after an hour becomes some of the headiest briar, euc and cassis you have experienced. Boggling and sharp–is that alcohol? No, it is pure mint and spicy briar. Overwhelmingly fruity throughout nose, but in the mouth it thins considerably. Ripe and round, meager with raw edges of vibrancy both convincing and arguing against a decade-old wine. Evisceratingly tannic and immensely oaked. Rubber boots and *maybe* a touch of cardboard? But all through a nice fading dark cherry concentrate layered in tar and bell-pepper. Not a bad wine at all. Admittedly, I do not typically drink Australian cabs of this age–most in my cellar are Shiraz–so I do not really have a place-mark in my mind for where this wine should be. It is only a 16$ bottle, so that makes it, what, basically a 25$ Sonoma or a 30$ Napa? Fruit is headed south and structure isn’t going anywhere. Really smacks of Alexander Valley. 14-0 <–that’s actually kinda surprising.
2004 WOLF BLASS Cabernet Sauvignon Coonwarra Australia 14.0
24hr Vac-U-Vin update. (with argon) Dark and crisp with crazy spicy nuances just exploding off the glass. Not going downhill AT ALL, vibrant and fresh and structured against round wholesome fruit in gobs and gobs. Wow.