jamie goode's wine blog: A very important wine: 1999 AWRI Trial Semillon

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A very important wine: 1999 AWRI Trial Semillon

Really pleased to get a chance to try this wine, because it's an important one.

It's the Clare Valley Semillon 1999, made by Kerri Thompson at Leasingham, which was the wine used in the now famous Australian Wine Research Institute Closures Trial. In this trial, the same wine was bottled using fourteen different closures, including this one - the tin/saran-lined screwcap.

The significance of this trial? In the years that followed, the different bottles were repeatedly analysed by sensory and analytic methods. The results showed that the different closures resulted in very different wines, largely because of their differing oxygen transmission levels.

Those with the synthetic closures available at the time oxidised quite quickly. In comparison, the screwcap-sealed wines stayed fresher for much longer, although some low level struck flint/burnt rubber reduction notes were detected on sensory analysis.

Opponents of screwcaps used this 'reduction' to bash screwcaps, which otherwise seemed to be doing the best job of all the closures. But consider this: when the trial was begun, virtually no Australian wines were screwcap sealed; now the vast majority of them are.

So, some 10 years and eight months after bottling, how does this wine look? It's a full yellow colour, with a minerally, flinty edge to the attractive honeysuckle and citrus fruit nose. The palate has a lovely focused fruit quality to it with pithy citrus fruit and a hint of grapefruit. There are also some subtle toasty notes. Very attractive and amazingly fresh for a 10 year old Clare Semillon.

The reduction? If you look for it you can find it, in terms of the struck match character and a slight hardness on the palate. But it's nowhere close to being a fault. I doubt any of the other bottles in the trial that aren't sealed with a tin/saran-lined screwcap are still drinkable.

Geeky note: this is one of the old fashioned screwcaps without the BVS finish (noticeable around the rim); this was introduced later to make the seal more robust. (Pictured.)

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At 7:59 PM, Blogger UCDWino said...

Did they include a red wine in that trial? I'd love to see those results!

At 8:00 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

No, just a single wine - this one.

At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Judging from a recently tasted South African Semillon (Fairview Oom Pagel 2000) I don't want freshness in a Semillon. If you want freshness, then drink it young. If all a screwcap does is preserve the wine as it was, then it has limited use, no?

At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is very interesting for me to read that article. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

At 7:03 AM, Blogger Citrus Quark said...

I am so interested to read this. i just sat the WSET Diploma exam that focused on alternative closures. It's good to hear that the AWRI trial Semillon is still holding up. Thanks for sharing your experience.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Martin said...

Alex, not sure if you read all of Jamie's review before taking against the screwcap. Sure he mentions freshness (a great quality in any aged wine, red or white) but the notes include the words full yellow, honeysuckle and - the kicker - toasty. All indicators of a Clare semi that has aged as the maker intended, and definitely not just a preserved wine.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger Kwispedoor said...

Had that 2000 Fairview Oom Pagel Semillon about a year ago - stunning stuff! Interestingly, recent vintages of that wine are now also bottled under screw-cap.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

I think Alex has a semi-point - the wine is developing much more slowly than you'd expect, and there's a little hint of reduction which in this case is a trade-off.

Of course, if you want a fresh young wine then the closure (as long as it doesn't taint) isn't so much of an issue.

But for those who want to drink this wine at 10 years, very few of the cork-sealed bottles would be as good as this, and all the screwcapped bottles would be consistently like this.


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