This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, May. 28, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20070528.php.
Popping a ... cap?
In some specific niches, particularly white wines from Australia and New Zealand, it appears that the screw cap - specifically, the heavy-duty, modern Stelvin-brand screw cap and similar competitors - has all but supplanted natural cork; and it's beginning to make inroads in the U.S. and even Europe. Synthetic (plastic) stoppers, similarly, are showing up increasingly in less expensive wines not intended for long-term cellaring.
Today, let's take a look at an interesting if a bit downscale closure option - the "crown cap," the pry-off metal cap that's most often seen on beer bottles. Lined on the inside with a translucent (and presumably inert) white plastic substance that forms a seal and prevents direct wine-to-metal contact, it's tightly crimped down but can be easily pried off with a simple beer-bottle opener, the so-called "church key."
Although not widely advertised, it's no secret that virtually all Champagnes - even high-end, pricey brands - are held under beer-style crown caps during production. The cap is replaced with the traditional mushroom-shaped Champagne cork only after the wine's secondary fermentation in the bottle is complete.
Indeed, one of the first wines sold at retail under crown cap in the U.S. was a modest sparkler, Mionetto's "Il" Prosecco, a wine designed for casual gulping without much pomp or reverence. More recently, crown caps have started turning up on simple, inexpensive bottles of Austrian Grüner Veltliner, wines meant to be quaffed while they're young and fresh.
For today's tasting, we unholstered the old church key to pop the cap on a 2006 "GV" from H. u. M. Hofer, an all-organic producer in Auersthal, a village just north of Vienna, whose crown-capped offering may just be the best wine buy of the year so far at $10 for a fat one-liter bottle of crisp, citric and minerally dry white wine that's just right for summer sipping or drinking with just about any meal.
Bio-Weingut H. u. M. Hofer 2006 Auersthal Niederösterreich Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken ($9.99/1 liter)
Transparent straw color. Simple, food-friendly and fresh, tart lime and wet stones; "rainwater over rocks" minerality, citrus fruit, white pepper and fresh acidity in a very long finish. GV on the simple side, but it's balanced, interesting and refreshing, and that's a splendid payoff for a bargain-basement price. U.S. importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, N.Y.; a Terry Theise Estate Selection. (May 28, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Versatile and food-friendly, GV finds its match in a wide variety of dishes, with a special facility for freshwater fish and "white meats" from chicken to veal. It's also a go-to wine for Southeast Asian and Pacific Rim cuisine, and went very nicely with a spicy Thai Yum Neua beef salad.
VALUE: At $10 for a stubby one-liter bottle, the equivalent of just $7.50 for a standard "fifth," this has to rate as one of the best quality-price-ratio wines of this or any other year.
WHEN TO DRINK: GV ages nicely, but there's no particular reason not to slurp up this simple, fresh example this year, while it's young and fresh. Perfectly suited for summer sipping with picnic fare.
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The Connoisseurs' Series: Two excellent California reds
Another month, another pair of excellent, top-tier wines from California Wine Club's limited-membership Connoisseurs' Series. Every month I look forward to tasting and telling you about these special wine selected by Connoisseurs' Guide publisher Charlie Olken and California Wine Club's Bruce Boring, who pick out a carefully chosen selection of excellent, balanced ultra-premium wines for club members every month.
Connoisseurs' Series membership is necessarily limited by the tiny production of these great wines, so it's a rare privilege that 30 Second Wine Advisor readers are now eligible to sign on. Connoisseurs' Series members may subscribe for monthly, alternate month or quarterly packages. Each shipment includes two to four bottles of California's top wines, with detailed background information. Monthly shipments average $125-$175, including all shipping and handling. There's no membership charge, no long-term commitment (cancel any time), and every wine is guaranteed.
Visit http://www.cawineclub.com/connseries or call The California Wine Club at 1-800-777-4443 to join or learn more about The Connoisseur's Series. Feel free to tell them that I sent you ... and, if you join, please don't hesitate to contact me by E-mail and tell me what you think.
Terre Rouge 2003 "Ascent" Sierra Foothills Syrah ($85 retail, $79 per bottle for half or full case orders by Connoisseurs' Series members)
This is a very dark reddish-purple wine, black at the center, almost opaque. Attractive Syrah aromas blend fruit and floral scents, plums and roses, with substantial but appealing chocolatey oak. Big and "chewy" on the palate, ripe black fruit nicely shaped by structural acidity and firm tannins. Carries its 14.5% alcohol well. Cellaring will enhance its nuanced complexity, but it's drinking well now, particularly with a tannin-erasing rare red meat accompaniment like my choice, natural grass-fed locally produced rib eyes. Just 200 cases were made. Winery Website: http://www.terrerougewines.com (May 17, 2007)
Robert Stemmler 2003 Carneros Pinot Noir ($37 retail, $32 per bottle for half or full case orders by Connoisseurs' Series members)
Clear dark ruby in color. Classic cool-climate Carneros Pinot aromas, ripe wild cherries and an exotic whiff of cola. Fresh and juicy red-cherry fruit and mouth-watering acidity greet the palate in fine balance; French oak is handled well, coming across as an attractive accent without dominating the wine. A fine, food-friendly New World Pinot with good cellar potential, well matched with an earthy modern Mediterranean dish of eggplant, beef and tomatoes in a quick pasta sauce with wasabi-scented goat cheese. Winery Website: http://www.robertstemmlerwinery.com (May 19, 2007)
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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:
Cool! (May 25, 2006)
Ingredient labeling (May 23, 2006)
Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa (May 21, 2006)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Pork belly (May 24, 2006)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: