For many of the wine enthusiasts who have already embraced the once-maligned metal screw cap as an appropriate seal for fine wines, its casual simplicity is part of the appeal of the alternative closure. Unscrew the cap, pour the wine; no muss, no fuss, and best of all, no snob factor.
But wine lovers who enjoy the brief ritual that attends the extraction of the traditional cork feel that there's something missing in a quick, careless unscrewing. Indeed, for restaurant sommeliers, who make a living out of mastering wine minutiae, an opening procedure devoid of ritual could be a professional threat.
The procedure is simple, much easier to master than the dreaded corkscrew: Grasp the cap firmly with one hand, and gently rotate the bottle under it with the other, breaking the seal with an audible, satisfying "crack." Then place the loosened cap against your forearm (tuxedo optional) and roll it down toward your hand, timing the move so the cap comes off just as the bottle rolls into your palm. Present the cap with a flourish if you wish. There's no need to sniff it, but you're welcome to do so if it pleases you.
Is this ritual necessary? Of course not! Is it fun? I think so, although the answer to that question may depend on your sense of humor. The Aussie wine geeks who first told me about it thought it hilarious, and claimed it was an Australian invention, although my Kiwi wine pal Sue Courtney (http://www.wineoftheweek.com/) insists that it came originally from New Zealand, in a video produced by the good folks at Villa Maria when they went over to the alternative closure years ago. One thing's certain: The idea almost had to come from Down Under, where producers in both countries have led the charge toward screw cap closures for wines of quality.
Meanwhile, if you think the screw cap is declassé, I expect you'll be horrified by the closure on today's tasting, a modest but surprisingly fetching Austrian Grüner Veltliner from H. und M. Hofer, packaged in a stubby green jug that looks almost like a beer bottle, and closed with a beer-style "crown cap" that submits to neither corkscrew nor uncapping twist but the humble "church key."
Weingut H. u. M. Hofer 2004 Niederösterreich Grüner Veltliner Trocken ($10.99/1 liter)
This is a very pale straw-color wine with a tinge of brassy green. White fruit aromas, citric and limey, are pleasant if a bit on the delicate side. Simple but fresh flavors are consistent with the nose, crisp citrus, medium body and zippy acidity. I don't find much in the way of Grüner minerality as the vine is first poured, but a bit of pleasant "woolly" character develops as the wine warms in the glass. U.S. importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, N.Y., A Terry Theise Estate Selection. (May 7, 2006)
FOOD MATCH: Food-friendly GV works with veal, pork, poultry and seafood, and it's becoming a go-to wine for spicy Southeast Asian fare. It went beautifully with the bold flavors of veal polpette fashioned as "Italian cheeseburgers," shaped to fit squares of home-baked sage foccacia and topped with Point Reyes Blue.
VALUE: Ounce for ounce or milliliter by milliliter, the liter-size bottle is a fine value for just over $10. (Note also that this bottling is widely discounted; I've seen it at online vendors for as little as $7.50.) It may be a phantom value unless you're serving a group, though, as there's no way we're going to consume a liter over the course of an evening, and unless you pry off the beer-style cap with great care, it's hard to use it to re-cap the bottle.
WHEN TO DRINK: GV in general shows excellent aging potential for a white, and I don't doubt that this one would survive a few years in the cellar, but it's really meant for easy quaffing while it's young and fresh.
For English-language information, the U.S. importer's fact sheet on this wine is here:
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This week on WineLoversPage.com
Some highlights of recent articles on WineLoversPage.com that I hope you'll enjoy:
Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
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Shopping for a wine-cellar unit
How do you like your eggs?
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:
Who's Assisi? (May 5, 2006)
WT101 - Austria (May 3, 2006)
Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape (May 1, 2006)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: The perfect fried egg (May 4, 2006)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, May 8, 2006