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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in DĂșn Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where does a decade go?

And I'm not talking about rosaries LOL! It seems hard to believe but it is ten years since the winemakers of the Clare Valley, in South Australia, decided to switch more or less en masse to using Stelvin closures rather than cork. Since then, a lot has changed in the world of wine for the better and we really should appluad their foresight and bravery.
Let us be in no doubt - regardless of natural cork's excellent qualities, screwcaps are simply better. Cork does have very real advantages as a closure, certainly over anything that preceded it - it offered an airtight seal and enabled us to have wines which developed with age.
That said, a number of problems arose over the last 25 years relating specifically to a compound known as trichloranisole (TCA) which imparted a musty odour to wine and which was one of the biggest faults of the modern wine era. While there can be a number of origins of TCA in wine there is little doubt that poor quality cork processing was the major culprit. The problem seemed to worse in Australia where a cork supply monopoly meant that Australian winemakers were getting noticeably higher rates of taint in their wines than the norm elsewhere.
As a result, the winemakers in Clare decided in 2000 to bottle their wines under screwcap and the revolution was started. They are a clever lot and embarked on a major public relations exercise beforehand. Wine journalists were invited to come and visit and were informed that this was all about improving or guaranteeing quality for the consumer. By the time the wines were released the local consumers had understood so well that when wineries which had part-bottled under cork had sold out their screwcap wines they found customers just left and went to the next winery in the valley!
In 2001, a substantial portion of the New Zealand wine industry followed suit and we are now in the happy position that even top French producers are putting wines into screwcap. There have been various trials testing the efficiency of screwcap over cork and, while there are some vaiable alternatives e.g. vinolok, screwcaps win out on all aspects - better ageing potential, ease of use, lack of taint etc.
On a Master of Wine trip to Clare in 2001 my mate Martin Moran coined the phrase "Clare screws cork!" and there is no doubt that they are still doing it. Bless 'em.

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