Food and drink 

The taming of the screw: New summer sippers come twisted but not bitter

It’s been three years since we first mention screw cap closures in this column. For those of you still debating the merits of the twist-off top, get over it. Screw caps are here to stay at some level, especially if the wine is white and the grapes in question are sauvignon blanc, riesling, viognier, ehrenfelser, gewürztraminer (do you sense an aromatic theme?) pinot gris/grigio, rosé, and even a fair bit of chardonnay, too.

That’s not to say you cannot have a great bottle of wine bearing a cork. Only that the cork, good or defective, alters the flavour of the wine. At least it is my contention that even the finest cork in the world tends to shave off or, at the very least, dampen the last five to seven per cent of the most delicate fruit aromas and flavours found in wine. While that may be useful for big, rich alcoholic reds, when it comes to summer sippers, it’s simply not acceptable.

We want to enjoy the fresh, soaring fruit and minerality in our aromatic wines and be free from the dreaded 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), or cork taint, and its mix of mildew, mold and damp basement odours. For the moment, screw caps appear to be the wine closure best suited to make that happen with wine. At less than 10 parts per trillion (the level at which oenologists are expected to detect taint) TCA can wipe out the delicate aromatics that come from perfectly ripened fruit faster than you can say, “Waiter, this wine is corked.”

Ironically, while producers and growers argued about whether consumers would accept a closure that was once associated with the cheap and nasty wines of yesteryear, no one could foresee how quickly consumers would embrace the easy opening cap. We may not know cork taint when we smell it but give us a reason not to use a corkscrew and we don’t need to be asked twice.

Clean, fresh wines that are easy to open have to be considered de rigueur as we head to the patio for summer. All we need now is a little sunshine and some wine suggestions.

This month I’ve delved into my database for the latest in affordable, top-scoring, screw-capped finished wines. Enjoy the assurance that every bottle tastes just as the winemaker had intended. And don’t forget to cut this list out and post it where you can find it all summer.


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