The Dubious Shake
Back in March, I received
a rather unusual invitation. The winemakers
for the much ballyhooed Mollydooker wines
were in town and they wanted me to see them
do… “the shake.” In fact,
they wanted me to do “the shake”
with them, which owners Sparky and Sarah
Marquis say should be done vigorously.
Now before you get any naughty
thoughts, let me explain what Mollydooker
is and what all this shaking is about. Mollydooker
is a winery based in McLaren Vale, Australia.
In the past several years, Mollydooker,
has racked up some impressive praise in
the wine world, from the likes of wine critic
Robert Parker, who consistently anoints
the wines with 90-plus scores, to The Wine
Spectator magazine’s annual Top 100
Wines list, which has seen four Mollydooker
wines in recent years.
You would think that well-made,
well-received wines would be enough in and
of itself. But no, the Marquises have devised
something called the Mollydooker Shake,
which, when done vigorously, can elevate
something great into something closer to
Here’s how it goes:
You pour out about a half glass of wine.
Put the screwtop back on tightly. Turn the
bottle upside down. Shake the bejesus out
of it. Unscrew the cap and allow the foam
to dissipate. And then repeat. This procedure
accelerates the removal of nitrogen from
the wine, we’re led to believe, thus
creating a more pleasant drink.
After I read through these
steps in my press material, I quietly giggled
to myself and my first thought was something
along the lines of: “BO-GUS!”
“Some people do tend
to raise and eyebrow when they hear about
‘the shake,’” said Alicia
Kelly Raymond, Mollydooker’s director
of consumer sales and marketing. “But
consumers love it. Once they get the concept,
they really take to this. They can show
their friends and tell them all about it.
The only raised eyebrows we get are with
the high-end sommeliers at fancy restaurants.”
And skeptical wine writers.
Once upon a time, in a classroom
far, far away, I learned from my wines instructor,
Steven Kolpan, that there are essentially
two situations when one should decant a
1.) OLDER RED WINE THAT
HAS PRECIPITATED SEDIMENT DURING THE AGING
PROCESS. In this case, you carefully and
slowly pour out the wine into a decanter
or carafe to avoid stirring up the sediment,
which hopefully stays in the bottle.
2.) YOUNG, HIGHLY CONCENTRATED
RED WINE. “Carefully” and “slowly”
have nothing to do with this instance. You
pour the wine as quickly as possible into
a decanter or carafe, hopefully without
spilling, and then swirl the bejesus out
of the wine.
Kolpan never mentioned anything
about releasing nitrogen (perhaps I was
napping), but he did explain that a number
of aromatic and flavor compounds are released
when they come in contact with oxygen. This
is particularly significant when you have
intense wines with concentrated flavors,
such as Napa Valley cabernet sauvignons
and bold Australian shirazes. And this is
the story that I would tell to my guests
when I was a young and energetic sommelier
at a fancy restaurant, all the while vigorously
swirling and swirling the crystal decanter
until a slight foam was created. (Sound
like a familiar shaking technique?)
To say I was a tad unconvinced
about the special benefits of the Mollydooker
Shake would be an understatement. But, the
Marquises do point out that they add extra
nitrogen in their wines to keep them fresher.
This gas, which has a masking effect, must
be removed via “the shake” to
fully appreciate the sensational aromas
and flavors lurking underneath.
Since I was not able to
attend the shake seminar in March, and to
give the Marquises the benefit of the doubt,
I invited a former colleague and wine writer,
Katie Kelly Bell, over one Tuesday morning
to do “the shake”—which
of course I had to carefully explain to
Bell and to my wife.
We poured the control glass;
shook the bottles and started tasting. First
up was The Boxer, a shiraz. We agreed the
control wine had a menthol smell and flavors
of dark berries and root beer. The shaken
version had most of the same qualities,
but it was a little more mellow. “I
didn’t feel like it punched me in
the nose, like the first one,” said
the oh-so-witty Bell.
And so it went. We tasted
the Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz and the Two Left
Feet, a blend of shiraz, merlot and cabernet.
And to slightly varying degrees and descriptions,
we liked the wines, shook and unshook. Not
unexpectedly, the shaken wines offered more
complexity and were more enjoyable. Bell
was a bit put off by the 16 percent alcohol
of all the wines and wondered what kind
of food they would go with. We agreed our
favorite of the three was the Two Left Feet.
I’m sure if I attended
the seminar, I would have been influenced
by the shaking proponents and been less
doubtful. Tasting wine can be a bit of a
mind game at times and none of us are immune.
However, in the quiet of my kitchen, “the
shake” seemed to be more of an amusement.
But, if doin’ the Mollydooker Shake
helps wine lovers enjoy their wines more
(or have a better understand why some wines
should be decanted), then great.
I think Bell summed it up
best. “It doesn’t really make
a big difference, but it’s a good
party trick. And you better keep lid on
proponents and winemakers Sarah and Sparky
2006 Mollydooker, The Boxer, Shiraz, South
Two Thumbs Up
• A big wine with
aromas of pepper and menthol vapor rub.
Deep flavors of jammy, dark berries and
plums with an enjoyable root beer quality.
Despite the intense flavors, quite velvety.
Mollydooker, Blue Eyed Boy, Shiraz,
Two Thumbs Up
• Interesting aromas
of spice cake and stewed plums. Rich flavors
of very ripe plums, blackberries and dark
chocolate with a damp, earthy quality. A
slightly tannic finish.
Mollydooker Two Left Feet, South Australia
Two Thumbs Up
• Engaging, perfume-like
aromas of dark berries, plums and black
cherries. Flavors of candied fruit, dried
strawberries, dark chocolate and mincemeat
pie with hint of eucalyptus on the finish.
Quite rich and concentrated.