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Taint, oxidation forces Leeuwin to re-bottle old vintages

Top Australian producer Leeuwin is re-bottling its flagship Chardonnay under screwcap following frustration with defects caused by corks.

According to the western Australian estate, random oxidation and cork taint spoilage have dogged older vintages of their Art Series Chardonnay. The series – one of its most coveted – features the work of a different contemporary Australian artist each year.

At issue are 1,500 bottles of Art Series Chardonnay from the 1980 to 2002 vintages. Winemaker Paul Atwood says he began tasting the winery’s reserve stocks of Art Series Chardonnay and and re-bottling the still-good bottles last September.

After this year’s harvest, which is currently underway, Atwood will taste and re-seal the last three vintages. He will also re-bottle the remaining cork-finished wines from the 1980 to 1982 vintages.

Atwood says that tainted and defective corks took a serious toll on the wines well into the vintages of the 1990s.

‘Even some that hadn’t gone brown had oxidation issues,’ he said.

After 2002 Leeuwin began putting all of its wines under screwcap.

Founder Denis Horgan told decanter.com that in recent years Leeuwin had asked its distributors abroad whether or not they preferred wines under cork or screwcap.

‘All but two countries have told us they want everything under [screwcap] seal,” said Horgan. ‘And they’re going to get them under seal whether they like it or not.’

Written by Tim Teichgraeber

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