Proctor : August 2018
49 PROCTOR | August 2018 I have a fond memory of the wine cask – a silver bag pegged precariously to an old Hills Hoist in a ramshackle grass-and-concrete backyard, and set in revolving motion by the spin of an eager law student. Goon of Fortune was the name for the liquid version of TV’s Wheel of Fortune. 1 But like the show, the cask is almost just a memory, an anachronism from a less sophisticated age. The reputation of the wine cask no longer rides high as it once did, and is relegated to packaging of ‘bulk plonk’ in the common imagination. It is still possible to source 10-litre casks (Brown Brothers still make them), affectionately known as a ‘Walrus’, but few would admit to having bought one in the last 20 years. Pity. Pity because the wine cask is a great Australian invention and it could well be the packaging of tomorrow – the saviour the wine industry didn’t know it needed. The cask itself was the brainchild of South Australian winemaker Thomas Angove AM (grandson of estate founder D. William Angove). Tom took the idea of using a plastic bag in a box to transport wine, a technique which had previously only been used for battery acid in garages and workshops. In 1965 he patented his invention, although at that time there was no tap, but the package was supplied with a peg to seal the corner after it had been snipped. In 1967, Leicester-born Australian inventor Charles Malpas invented the revered plastic tap for the Penfolds Wines ‘Tablecask’ product and the modern cask took its shape. The rest is history. The new packaging was ideal for bulk wine and it has stayed at the economic end of the market ever since. However, our prejudice for bottles as the packaging of choice for quality wine has only grown stronger, with even cask-quality cleanskins now only coming in glass. But, there is no reason to only put lesser wine in the cask. New York Times opinion writer Tyler Colman made the case for casks in 2008.2 He said casks were the practical and environmentally responsible future of the wine industry. For any wine which is not intended to age, the cask has a number of advantages: • Casks are free of cork taint. • Casks permit any quantity of wine to be poured without oxidising the portion left. • Cask wine should last at least a month after the seal is broken. • Light doesn’t affect a cask wine. • Transport of wine casks generates significantly less carbon emissions than heavier glass bottles. Colman pointed out that in the United States wine is largely made on the west coast but drunk on the east coast. He said that if the 97% of wines made in the US to be consumed within a year were transported in casks, two million tons of greenhouse gas would be reduced, or the equivalent of 400,000 cars. So in a future where we want easy access and storage of environmentally friendly wine to ‘drink now’, the humble cask puts forth a compelling case. The first was the Hardys Reserve Shiraz NV 3ltr, which was brick red in colour and had a nose of white pepper and a slight hint of vanilla amid the stewed fruit. The palate was smooth, round and supple, yet there was little tannin but some noticeable acid backbone. There was a note of vanilla but an absence of concentration of flavour. The second was the Yalumba Winesmiths 2017 Shiraz 2ltr, which was brick and crimson red in colour and had the nose of currants. The palate was light with some tart fruit on the attack with a following note of spice and leather. The third was the DeBortoli Reserve Premium Shiraz 2017 2ltr, which was purple red and had a nose of simple currant. The palate was tart fruit sitting on a layer of spice and saddle. There was an absence of tannin but a more approachable softness. Verdict: The three offerings were equally approachable and ideal as winter mulled wines. The tasting Matt Dunn is Queensland Law Society policy, public affairs and governance general manager. Wine A humble saviour for the wine industry? with Matthew Dunn Three ‘premium’ cask offerings were examined for the benefit of readers. Notes 1 Seven Network gameshow running from 1981 to 2004. 2 nytimes.com/2008/08/18/opinion/18colman.html.