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Milne: ‘Cork is completely outdated’

Cork as a closure for wine is “a completely outdated“ technology nowadays, according to Kym Milne MW, chief winemaker at Bird in Hand in Australia’s Adelaide Hills.

Vineyards in the Adelaide Hills

Speaking during a tasting of Adelaide Hills Shiraz during the London Wine Fair this week, Milne said: “I’m not a fan of cork at all – I think it’s a technology that is completely outdated now.

“As wines age cork gives enormous variability – try 12 bottles from the same case and you’ll have 12 different wines.

“There’s too much variation from putting a piece of wood in the end of a bottle. And cork taint is an issue too, which the cork producers have been working hard to eradicate but it’s still there.”

Kim Milne MW, chief winemaker at Bird in Hand

Milne, who bottles all of his wines under screwcap, told the audience that “the possibility for reduction under screwcap is over-stated”, and that he don’t tend to find reductive notes in his wines.

As for Adelaide Hills Shiraz, Milne revealed that cool climate Australian Shiraz in general is “finally getting noticed”.

“Shiraz is the Australian variety that’s attracting the most attention at competitions both at home and internationally at the moment.

“Consumers are looking for more medium bodied wines and food friendly reds, and the Adelaide Hills fits nicely into that niche.

“No one is having a problem selling their Shiraz at the moment, in fact, the price of the wines from the Adelaide Hills is going up,” he said.

Comparing the region to the more famous Barossa Valley, Milne revealed that the Adelaide Hills is a much larger area with far more scattered plantings, hence has great potential for growth.

“The region is incredibly varied in terms of microclimates. It’s fractionally cooler than Hermitage and significantly cooler than the Barossa – Piccadilly is the coolest part.

“Brian Crozer planted vines there in 1971 so it’s still a very young wine region. There’s a month difference between the date we harvest the warmest and the coolest sites, which is very unusual,” Milne said.

“The variety of different Shiraz you get from the Hills is extreme. We work with Shiraz from eight different sites and are aiming for the riper end of the cool climate spectrum.

“We use the warmer sites for flesh, texture and blackberry aromatics and the cooler sites for freshness. Shiraz clones don’t make a huge difference but you get more aromatic styles from the 2626 clone.

“The R6 Tahbilk clone from Victoria is a good clone for the Hills as it crops lower and has loose bunches, so there are fewer opportunities for botrytis. We’re using that clone a lot more in the Hills,” he added.

Summing up, Milne revealed that he sticks to French oak for his wines as American oak is “too aggressive” for Adelaide Hills Shiraz as it has a tendency to overpower the fruit.

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