The BEST of Mouse In March and Screw Top Science

Watching the college hoops tournament this year is like waiting to see how a rain-soaked vintage year turns out. Disasters everywhere but who knows what will be the outcome long as the weather and vines dry out for a few weeks prior to harvest. Could¬†be incredible. In fact it is looking that way…for the brackets anyway. This week field correspondent Mouse (aka Field Mouse) offers two U20 tasting reviews along with his always helpful musings on regions and producers. tBoW team leader Dotor√© offers some screw top science worth your time. There is no science for picking March Madness.

There are plenty of places online to get in on the screwtop versus cork debate. Bring your Nodoz. Suffice it to say that screwtops are cheaper, easier to apply and remove, and thereby are superior for keeping wine “pouring-fresh” in the bottle until you want to consume it. The last stand for backing the cork as a stoppage method – other than its value as tradition – was the untested claim corks were necessary to age wines properly. Not any more.

The photo shows the same wine stopped up with a screwtop – black cap on left – and every kind of cork available commercially to vintners. The top row shows how these wines aged over 28 days. The second row shows aging over ten years. In research language, the same treatment (cork types plus screwtop) has been applied to the same population (one Semillon wine from Australia) thus controlling for any possible intervening variables. If all possible inadvertent effects that might otherwise influence the conclusion are controlled for (they were) then we may completely and exclusively fix our conclusions on how well each kind of stopper worked in keeping wines fresh and relatively untainted from air, chemicals in the cork, and other factors such as microscopic mold present on the cork when the wine was bottled.

The screwtop wine on the left is almost the same color at four weeks as at ten years. The rest of the wines stopped up by all varieties of corks and hybrids went to hell, aging worse than Donald Trump’s comb-over. Caveat – Brits would not object to “well-aged” Semillon.

Hey, that’s the science. How about a couple U20 wine recommendations by Mouse!!

2007 Vavasour Pinot Noir $23. I am an unabashed fan of New Zealand wine. For exuberant unapologetic Sauvignon Blanc, it’s the place to go. Their Pinots have remained reasonably priced and some are outstanding. While Central Otago generally pumps out the best stuff, this Marlborough beauty ranks as my all time fave. At the risk of sounding cliche, this IS Burgundian: [ed. he DID NOT say Burgundian.] barnyard bloom and plum cherries fly off the glass. This sucker will actually improve and peak in time for Obama’s second inauguration. It reminds me of a really nice village Gevrey. My buddy Oz Clarke gives it two stars, and I’d give it the same. Two great mice!!! [ed. note to Mouse – recruit Clarke for tasting team. Need fresh copy ASAP.]

1990 Domaine des Aubuisieres Bernard Fouquet Vouvray Grande Annee Moelleux $16 (twenty years ago): There is no more diverse wine region than France’s Louire Valley. Dry whites from Sauvignon Blanc, CheninBlanc, and local obscurities. Sparkling Chenin Blanc. Deep reds from Cab Franc, fruity Malbecs, and rather austere Pinot Noir from Sancerre, a community better known for its Sauvignon Blancs. I actually had a Sancerre Blanc Nourveau in a Paris winebar once with goat cheese which is still a reference point for Mrs. Mouse et moi. Loire quality is spotty and vintages vary dramatically. However, the undisputed Kings of Loire are its fruity to very sweet Chenin Blanc wines, all located in the Anjou sub-region. The really special offerings come from Chaume, Quarts de Chaume, and Bonnezeux. Back in the 90’s, when I bought this bottle for next-to-nothing [ed. ah yes this commentary is a review about one particular wine from 1990], wine sellers couldn’t give them away. I think I paid about $16 for this. Vouvray is the biggest and most known of the Anjous, making sec, demi-sec and moelluex (from dry to sweetest), as well as sparklers. They’re still not overpriced; good Vouvray can routinely be had for under $20. The current 2009 vintage is superb. This bottle, now 21 ans, is utterly brilliant. From the legendary 1990 vintage, which tops even 1996 and 2002 in mon livre, this Chenin clobbers you with thick honeysuckle and tree-ripened nectarine. With all due respect to German Beerenauslenes and Trocken-the-same, and Barsac/Sauterne, I’d pick a sweet Loire Chenin Blanc. Why? Because while still sweet, the varietal is so so clear. God I love this wine. Three MICE!!!!

Mouse knocks two U20s outta the park again!! I am closing this post to head to my cellar and grab a Vouvray for the coming week. Where the f*ck is Spring?!?!


  1. I definitely must check out rodent-certified Pinot from New Zealand! Now, Vinemaster, I’m compelled to relate to Mouse the (fluffy) tale of the infamous “Off Beaujolais” (or Faux Beau?)–that you, dear Vinemaster, imperiously demanded moi drive all the way out to PCH in Hermosa Beach, ($19.99) to get ze last remaining bottles of, of which you claimed zere-vere only 25 cases zat ever made it stateside. You tried to pass zis off as some evil plot by Le Dotore, and even put ze bottles under his name! But nonetheless, I admit you deviously raised ze suspicions du Inspecteur LeLarge, and so moi drove well out of mon way through hellish Sud Bay traffique et acquired Le Clos de la Roilette ’09, at ze true U20 top registerre of $19.99 (note: Louis/Dressner importeur). And les bottles are technically “O20” in zis case with gas over fo’ f**ing bucks a galleon, but after just one taste, any logistical frustrations faded completement into fruity bliss. Oui, Vinemasteur, c’est brilliant!

    As we sat there, celebrating the onset of spring and Persian New Year replete with multi-course feast, NCAA tourney games, I must acknowledge this divine dark ruby nectar rocked solo, and paired to perfection with Mamatah Rockbar’s heavenly Fessanjan Chicken (tart, rich pomegranite/walnut sauce from the Court of Xerxes)… A knock out floral and boldy (dare I say) sensual and rosy nose… seemingly as heavy as a middle-weight Pinot–quite unlike any Beauj I’ve tasted, young and smooth, delicate, yet packing heft. I guess what impressed me about this vintage was — unlike any other Beaj I’ve tried, it was a wine of stark contrasts — the nose a bold, fruity floral, exotic — the texture on the palate, well at once evocative of ancient craftsmanship and the intoxicatingly seductive fresh and nubile–straightfoward and mild complexity, understated earthiness and power fruit–a very subtle hint of a little Rhone barnyard leather swirling in a bouquet of black cherries perhaps… Such strong fruit has me very curious about how this will age in 3-4 years. Simply a winner, unusual, and at the high price-point of those wondrous ’09s — a rare bargain if one can hunt it down.

    And so dear Vinemasteur, I have uncovered the vile decepcion vou foisted upon Inspecteur LeLarge. Not having yet tasted it, I dutifully surrendered you two bottles, keeping only one. I knew better — but, OK, you shared yours. Hope Dotore got his case. As we well know, there are many more ’09s worth chasing, but I wonder if any this distinctive will show up.


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