Cork or screwcap? A recent comparison

Reviewed wines on offer by Cornerstone Wines, Equatorial Wines, Wine Culture and Wine Exchange Asia

Had an opportunity to compare wine bottled under screwcap and cork the other day. A friend’s birthday provided the excuse for one of the guests to provide a side by side comparison of 2001 Moss Wood cabernet, (thank you Manfred) one under cork the other under screwcap. Now, my palate is not a patch on those of the illustrious company around the table, but even I could tell the difference. Not immediately, as the nose on both wines was remarkably similar on opening, but as the wines sat in the glass, the journeys took very different directions.  The wine under cork improved, took on softer, mellower and more complex characteristics than the screwcap version of the same wine. The screwcap wine opened relatively harsh, and stayed that way.  I say relatively, because there’s no way that the screwcap was a bad wine, but on a stand off comparison, it didn’t reward as much. The comment was made that one might die before the screwcap reached the same level of subtleness. And maybe therein lies the challenge for winemakers of cellaring wines – to produce a wine that matures like it’s under cork whilst it’s actually under screwcap.  Consumers may not have the patience for the screwcaps to come around. Only time will tell.

If you’re wondering why Wine Exchange Asia gets such prominence in this blog it’s because they are, in my opinion, the most active on-line retailer in the country, pushing out deals, good deals, at a rate that would make a Lucky Plaza hawker blush. I review a lot of offers from retailers during the course of a week, and many get rejected because they either don’t quote GST inclusive, or don’t quote vintages.  If someone’s doing it right and often, and the wine is good, they’ll get into this blog.

The only criticism I have of Wine Exchange Asia (and it applies today) is that if you blink, you miss out. Not a bad problem for them to have, I suspect.

So, here’s today’s effort:

2009 / Dry River / Martinborough / Gewurtztraminer / S$55 at Wine Exchange Asia. I have a rating on this from Decanter at 19.5 points (that’s an award wine by their reckoning) but not a comparative price as it sells in the UK for GBP27. Off the top of the head, the pricing looks pretty good. Oh, it’s drinking out to 2015.

2008 / Dry River / Martinborough / Chardonnay / S$71 at Wine Exchange Asia. Bob Campbell says this is a “serious chardonnay” and gives it 94 points. Michael Cooper gives it 4.5 stars too. I’ve seen the pricing on this ranging from NZ$52 to NZ$70. No matter which one you choose as the basis for comparison, it’s a good deal.

2009 / Dry River / Martinborough / Riesling / S$61 at Wine Exchange Asia. “Pure and powerful” according to Bob Campbell, rewarding it with 94 points.  With a retail price of NZ$45, it’s a good deal here.

2009 / Te Kairanga / Martinborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$41 at Equatorial Wines. I couldn’t find a specific rating for this year, so if you know the wine, you’ll be more interested in the price. It’s NZ$21, which equates to a BBI of S$41.20. Can’t get closer than that.

2008 / Dry River / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$110 at Wine Exchange Asia. This is getting into serious money for an antipodean pinot. But, Bob Campbell says it is “seriously impressive” so what the heck. He gives it 95 points. It retails for about NZ$75 which makes the S$110 pushing the outer limit of comparative value but 95 pointers don’t come along from Bob very often.

2009 / Dry River / Martinborough / Pinot Noir/ S$110 at Wine Exchange Asia. Bob Campbell gives it 93 points calling it a “dense and supple” wine. Dry River probably figured they were on to something with the 2008 as the price apparently went up for the 2009 to NZ$84. That makes it a better comparative value than the 2008, if you ignore the points. What’s a couple of points worth to you?

The wine and the place: 2006 Kevin Arnold shiraz at Malealea, Lesotho. Well done Malealea Lodge! (Have a look at to find out more about this trip):

And finally, I see Cornerstone Wines has 2003 Torbreck Run Rig Barossa Valley shiraz at S$399. No comment on the wine, as I reviewed it on 28th November last year – only then it was S$290 at Epsilon Wines. The quick and the dead it seems.

“Sometimes the French give us a wine word that everyone understands, a consumer-friendly, easy to pronounce term such as “chardonnay” or “appellation”. Sometimes they give us a word that no one can pronounce, like “viognier” or “condrieu”, so we just wing it. And sometimes they give us a word that no one understands, no one can pronounce, and no one can come up with anything better. Such a word is “terroir”. – Paul Gregutt writing in Wine Enthusiast, June 2004



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Wine quotations

"A good bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world" - Louis Pasteur

“The unexacting palates of the masses…are content to ask no question [on origin] so long as a florin or half-a-crown will purchase a roomy flagon of strong , full-bodied, fruity wine” – CE Hawker writing in 1907