<table border="0" align="right" width="210"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/cap.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Popping a ... cap?
As alternative wine-bottle closures gain attention, screw caps and synthetics are cutting into the market share long held by natural cork.
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.
<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/hofe0528.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>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)
<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> 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 <i>Yum Neua</i> beef salad.
<B>VALUE:</B> 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.
<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> 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.
<B>Grüner Veltliner</B> = "<i>Green-er Felt-leen-er</i>"
(The German umlaut-accented "ü" falls somewhere between EE and OO, but "Greener" comes close enough to order a glass in any Austrian watering hole.)
Here's a fact sheet on the 2006 Hofer GV on the U.S. importer's Website, from where you can also click to a short article about the winery.
<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Find vendors and check prices for Hofer Grüner Veltliner on Wine-Searcher.com:
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