Wine: No Great Shakes

One winemaker’s request for consumers to shake the bottle to release nitrogen gas is a lot of hot air


To put this in a Detroit context, it’s kind of like buying a car and being told that, well, the car wobbles a little when you drive it. So, when you get home, just put it up on jacks and rotate the tires.

I’m talking about one of the weirdest pieces of video about wine that I’ve ever seen — a lesson on how to improve young wines so that they’ll be more immediately drinkable.

At first, I thought it must have been done as a spoof, but apparently not (something I concluded after several viewings).

The video is about a winery few people around here will know. Their wines, which are expensive and available on the Internet, have received high scores from several top trade publications and wine gurus. We’re talking about the Mollydooker winery, an Australian boutique operation that makes a line of fine reds quite popular with some collectors. They sell for $30 on the low end, and $120 for their top-of-the line. It’s not my kind of wine, frankly, but it’s certainly desirable to those who like their wines massive, intense, highly alcoholic, and most of all, expensive.

In the video, titled The Mollydooker Shake, winery owners Sarah and Sparky Marquis explain: “We use inert nitrogen gas during the bottling process as a way to protect the fruit flavor of our wines in the bottle. Nitrogen gas is a great preservative, so that means we can use fewer sulfites in our winemaking.”

They seem authoritative, sincere, and, in general, you follow what they’re saying until this: The problem, they say, is that the nitrogen gas “tends to flatten the back end of the round ball of fruit flavor in the wine. By doing the Mollydooker Shake, you release the nitrogen gas and the flavor becomes big and round again.”

This is where the Marquises begin to go to the other side of the moon.

They tell us to open the bottle, pour out a half glass or so, recap the wine and shake the bottle (in a second video version on the web, he shakes it so violently that she tells him to slow down), uncap it again, and, “voilà,” they say with a smile, the nitrogen comes to the top of the wine and evaporates in just a minute or so. Easy as one, two, three.

But as the author of an article, Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences (where I first learned of the video), states: “What comes to mind is that no other winery in history has ever had such a problem.”

Certainly, no self-respecting winery would ever let a wine out of its sight without clearing up a problem like this. It’s a winemaking issue that’s always handled at the winery before bottling, and certainly not by its customers.

This is really nothing short of highly embarrassing and belongs in the category of shooting yourself in the foot. It’s amateurish, at the very least.

Thanks, but I’ll stick with the dealer who will take care of a shimmying front end before putting the car on the lot.

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