"Any wine that comes like this," the restaurateur began, tapping the screw cap that adorned a delicious, charming bottle of pinot noir, "is vinegar. I won't even cook with it." It had been a while since I'd encountered such a damning opinion of screw caps, and it irked me.
Americans often attach an unpleasant stigma to screw caps, which is rooted in outdated notions of poor quality and low fashion. In fact, screw caps are the fastest growing method of closing a wine bottle, and for good reason.
Screw caps eliminate a lot of problems inherent to cork. Supply is one. Cork trees take years to replenish their bark once they are stripped for wine cork-making, and if demand jumps, the supply of good-quality cork can be obliterated. But the real enemy in cork is a compound called 2,4,6 trichloroanisole.
The presence of this bugger in a cork imparts aromas akin to wet golden retriever, moldy newspaper, or musty ottoman to a wine, and the average human schnoz can pick it up in concentrations as low as two parts per trillion. It can be caused by any number of environmental exposure factors, from the tree itself to the box the wine comes in. It is the real reason your server lets you taste a little of the wine you ordered-not for you to decide if you like it, but to ascertain whether or not it's "corked," as the taint is called.
To assume today that all wine served in screw cap is swill is an outdated notion that will prevent one from enjoying all manner of delicious wine. The age worthiness of a screw cap is still in debate, which is why it is rarely used on wines meant to be kept, but for the 90-some-odd percent of wine that is consumed within hours of purchase, a screw cap is a perfectly acceptable, if not preferable, way of sealing a bottle. If you don't believe me, check out these three screwy wines.
Vida Organica Torrontés Mendoza, Argentina 2007 ($9, The Henry Wine Group) displays a sweetly ripe nose of pears and almonds. Sweeter than the Crios Torrontés mentioned in April's column, this wine is charming in its friendliness but still quite racy on the finish. The bonus is that it is also made from organically grown grapes.
Another wine of inescapable charm is Vincent Girardin Pinot Noir "Emotion de Terroirs" 2005 ($26, Bacchus Importers Ltd.) With an expansive nose of red flowers and ripe berries, and a lush, juicy profile, this wine is simply a great expression of pinot noir fruit. Burgundy's defining earthiness and supple tannins lift the finish and lend the wine an air of serious sophistication. I was in danger of finishing this one by myself in under an hour.
If you're in the mood for a red that's thicker and darker than pinot noir, consider a bottle of Andrew Rich Vin de Tabula Rasa 2004 ($19, The Henry Wine Group). This syrah-based, Rhône-style blend is opaque and seductive, with a rich nose of black cherries. Syrah's cherry personality dominates the palate, too, like cherry preserves but smoky at the same time. Moderately tannic, with a body bolstered by some oak, this stylish red is proof that there's more happening in Oregon than just pinot noir-and that cork snobbism needs to become a thing of the past.