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Robin Garr

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WTN / WineAdvisor: Is ritual necessary? (Hofer 2004 GV)

by Robin Garr » Mon May 08, 2006 11:17 am

<table border="0" align="right" width="205"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/cap.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Is ritual necessary?

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.

No worries, mate ... those crafty sommeliers Down Under have already come up with a nifty little uncapping scheme that's sufficiently tongue-in-cheek to elicit more of a smile than a snobby sneer.

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 (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."

<table border="0" align="right" width="175"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/hofe0507.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>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)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> 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 <i>polpette</i> fashioned as "Italian cheeseburgers," shaped to fit squares of home-baked sage foccacia and topped with Point Reyes Blue.

<B>VALUE:</B> 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.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> 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.

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
The Hofer Website contains plenty of information, but it's all in German. You'll find it at this link.

For English-language information, the U.S. importer's fact sheet on this wine is here.

<B>FIND THESE WINES ONLINE:</B>
Find prices and online vendors for Hofer Grüner Veltliner on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Dale Williams

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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Is ritual necessary? (Hofer 2004 GV)

by Dale Williams » Mon May 08, 2006 1:36 pm

Robin Garr wrote:unless you pry off the beer-style cap with great care, it's hard to use it to re-cap the bottle.

Robin,
Drank the Hofer over three days-great value. I have a little stainless steel "Champagne stopper' that someone gave me a few years ago (looks a little like an ice cream cone, with several rubber rings- like gaskets- around pointed part. Gives a reasonably airtight seal.

I always it keep around because of recorking if cork broke, or if potentially funky cork -since it's easier to get what was outer end into bottle, and sometimes sound wines have mold on outside (I actually wondered if that was true with the '83 Poyferre I brought to Park Ave Cafe- it smelled fine in decanter). I just doubledecanted a couple '96 Bordeaux for a horizontal tonight, the Pontet Canet smells fine, but the outer end of cork maybe had a hint of something funky, so used the metal stopper.
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Ed Draves

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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Is ritual necessary? (Hofer 2004 GV)

by Ed Draves » Mon May 08, 2006 2:44 pm

Dan U. turned me on to this wine a few weeks ago. Great stuff for the money.
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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Is ritual necessary? (Hofer 2004 GV)

by Sue Courtney » Mon May 08, 2006 4:39 pm

Hi Robin,
I put this in the other discussion on screwcaps, but the correct title for the Villa Maria video/DVD is "Restaurant Service of Screwcapped Wine". It runs for approximately 5 minutes.
I hope that coming to the bottom of who invented this technique doesn't end up like the pavlova debate, with both countries claiming it as their own.
Cheers,
Sue
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Robin Garr

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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Is ritual necessary? (Hofer 2004 GV)

by Robin Garr » Mon May 08, 2006 5:45 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:I hope that coming to the bottom of who invented this technique doesn't end up like the pavlova debate, with both countries claiming it as their own.


Thanks, Sue! I think your quick intervention may save the crown for the All Blacks on this one!
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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Is ritual necessary? (Hoofer 2004 GV)

by Neil Courtney » Mon May 08, 2006 5:59 pm

Robin, for this screw cap flourish action to work well, you must first remove your wristwatch or it gets caught up in the band. Perhaps a true sommelier would not be wearing a watch anyway.
Cheers,
Neil Courtney

'Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.' --- Anonymous.
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Robin Garr

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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Is ritual necessary? (Hoofer 2004 GV)

by Robin Garr » Mon May 08, 2006 6:04 pm

Neil Courtney wrote:you must first remove your wristwatch or it gets caught up in the band.


Just tuck it up under the sleeve of your tux and you'll be OK ...
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Hoke

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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Is ritual necessary? (Hoofer 2004 GV)

by Hoke » Mon May 08, 2006 6:37 pm

Neil Courtney wrote:Robin, for this screw cap flourish action to work well, you must first remove your wristwatch or it gets caught up in the band. Perhaps a true sommelier would not be wearing a watch anyway.


Interesting timing here, in that Evan Goldstein, well known wine educator/trainer and writer here in the US, showed up today in my new issue of Sante magazine, a trade journal, with his column on Screwcaps, Part II.

In the column he basically relates how one should approach the issue of opening screwcapped wines.

He first says you should approach any wine, no matter the closure, with the same dignity and respect and ceremony.

His suggestion is to use a serviette (napkin) with a screwcap much the same way you do with a sparkling wine, and to wrap it around the cap, twist and open, then to slip the cap casually into your pocket, since it need not be shown to the customer.

He also maintains that a wine steward or restaurant that knows their business should spend exactly as much time teaching the pros and cons of closures as they do everything else about wine.

Reasonable approach, to me.
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James Roscoe

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Re: WTN / WineAdvisor: Is ritual necessary? (Hoofer 2004 GV)

by James Roscoe » Tue May 09, 2006 2:00 pm

I'm with Hoke on this one. What he says seems reasonable, especially the part about educating the public about closures!

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