Choose your capsule
Has the "capsule," that simple metal or plastic sheath that wraps around the business end of most wine bottles, outlived its usefulness?
Called by the same name in both French and English, the capsule was originally invented to protect the cork in the bottle against burrowing insects and mice in the wine cellar. Nowadays it's mostly decorative: The capsule serves no real purpose; it doesn't keep air out of the bottle or wine in. But many producers feel that a wine bottle without a capsule looks unfinished, and the wary might worry about strangers' dirty hands or other contaminants befouling an unprotected cork.
From the 17th century until around 1990, most fine wines - particularly those from Europe - came sheathed with a capsule made of lead foil. Lead was an easy choice: It is almost indestructible, yet malleable, easy to form around the cork and just as easy to remove by peeling, cutting or using a "foilcutter" accessory.
But modern worries about health and safety spelled a quick and conclusive end to lead capsules a few years ago. Legitimate concerns about lead piling up in landfills, bolstered by the somewhat more debatable conclusion that careless consumers who failed to wipe the neck of a bottle sheathed with lead might consume trace amounts of the hazardous stuff, prompted regulators in the U.S. and Europe to ban the use of lead.
A variety of alternatives have since appeared, some as innovative as colorful plastic capsules or a wax disk stuck on the end of a natural cork, others as historical as a quick dip in old-fashioned sealing wax.
Many wine lovers find the newfangled capsules frankly more irritating than the old lead-foil sheath, mainly because they're not as easy to get off. Thick plastic defies the sharpest knife. Shiny metal foil can tear into knife-like fragments that can do real injury. Sealing wax makes a mess. And some of the modern options - that useless little wax disk stuck on the end of a cork, for instance - seem just plain silly.
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And now, here's today's tasting report, an exceptionally flavorful New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the "benchmark" Kiwi style.
Jackson Estate 2002 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99)
Clear and very pale in color with a slight greenish glint, it offers the distinct scent of a ripe jalapeño pepper, signature of the benchmark New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc style, so fresh and true that you almost expect the wine's flavor to be spicy hot. But of course it's not; it's full and round, though, tart white fruit flavors, lime and grapefruit, so fruity that it seems slightly sweet at first, but it finishes dry, snappy and long. Last tasted almost exactly one year ago, its modern screw cap closure appears to have preserved it with very little change. U.S. importer: Rock Creek Wine Merchants LLC, Bethesda, Md. (Oct. 20, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Anticipating its green-chile flavors, I paired it with a vegetarian match, conchiglie (small shell) pasta topped with a creamy blend of ricotta and chopped fresh spinach. Kiwi sauvignon blancs generally do well with seafood, too, particularly oysters on the half-shell.
VALUE: Amid rising prices for many popular NZ Sauvignon Blanc labels, Jackson Estate remains a particularly good buy.
WHEN TO DRINK: As noted, the screwcap environment holds it well, so it will stay fresh for a good long time. But these exuberant flavors won't get any more so, so I would still err on the side of drinking it soon.
WEB LINK: The Jackson Estate winery offers a comprehensive Website at
Brentwood Wine Co.
Why in the world would you want to sell your treasured wine?
We can think of a few good reasons: The market has changed, and so have you. You bought too much wine back then; you need cash now. Or your tastes have changed, and it's time to take your gains on the varieties you bought in 1993 so you can buy what you like now. Whatever your reasons for taking wine to auction, Brentwood is the place for you. Here's why:
Brentwood pays sooner! With consignment auction houses, you'll wait months for your money. Brentwood pays in three to five days.
Brentwood pays more! You can count on average auction net or above for your wines.
Brentwood buys your wine outright! There's no risk of a bad auction result or unsold lots.
Free appraisals! Send your list to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax it to 1-503-638-6737.
Of course selling is only half the game. If you're buying collectibles, Brentwood is your source for centerpiece wines for holiday entertaining. Enjoy the fun and excitement of buying wine at auction ... at Brentwood Wine Co.,
PS: Don't forget to check Brentwood for great buys on Riedel crystal wine glassware for the holidays: It's 30 to 40 percent below regular retail!
California Wine Club
Last chance to win a weekend at the Harvest Inn, Napa Valley!
The California Wine Club is giving away a weekend at the luxurious Harvest Inn located in California's beautiful Napa Valley! If you'd like to enter their raffle and secure your chance at a $1,000 weekend getaway, visit
Need a tasteful holiday gift? The California Wine Club can help! Gift subscriptions start at $32.95/month plus shipping. To view their holiday website, visit
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This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles and features that I hope you'll enjoy:
Nat Decants: Columnist wins 'Best Writer' award
Here, from our Nat Decants archives, is her earlier report on why the wines of Down Under are on top:
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Offbeat varieties (Oct. 24, 2003) http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/tswa031024.phtml
"French Cepage" concept shelved (Oct. 22, 2003) http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/tswa031022.phtml
Two South African treats (Oct. 20, 2003) http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/tswa031020.phtml
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Szechwan shredded beef (Oct. 23, 2003)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Oct. 27, 2003