2006 Mollydooker, The Boxer, Shiraz, South Australia


2006 Mollydooker, Blue Eyed Boy, Shiraz,
South Australia


2006 Mollydooker Two Left Feet, South Australia







 

Doing 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 Nirvana.

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 wine.

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.

Okaaay.

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 tight!”


Shaking proponents and winemakers Sarah and Sparky Marquis.


2006 Mollydooker, The Boxer, Shiraz, South Australia

• $20

• 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.

2006 Mollydooker, Blue Eyed Boy, Shiraz,
South Australia

• $50

• 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.

2006 Mollydooker Two Left Feet, South Australia

• $20

• 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.

 

 

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