Getting Screwed – by Jennifer Gaydeski

I cradle a bottle of one of my favorite Australian Shiraz and begin to slowly pour. As the deep purple hue of this juicy wine swirls into the bottom of the glass, the guest seated at the wine bar in front of me hesitantly says, “I must admit I am a little offended that you are recommending a wine with a screw cap.” I continue to pour and then I gently push the glass towards the young woman and begin a conversation I have become accustomed to over recent years. I am honestly surprised that the debate over screw cap versus cork still rages on among a wide majority of wine drinkers. I agree that the ability to age a wine with a screw cap remains debatable, and perhaps only time will shed more light on this particular topic; however, considering that roughly 95% of wines purchased are intended for immediate consumption, the potential benefits of the notorious screw cap should warrant some small consideration.

Natural cork has a long heritage, and being an avid wine drinker and enthusiast myself, I must admit that I enjoy the ritual of opening a bottle. There is something about the slow removal of the cork and the anticipation of aromas being released from captivity that draw me in before the first glass is poured. I have also been disappointed when the first taste reveals a “corked” wine, identifiable by its musty smell and taste. Trichloroanisole (TCA), a contaminant that can come from cork, accounts for an estimated 5-10% of wines being “corked”. That’s one reason why so many winemakers have embraced alternative wine closures. Wine drinkers are a little slower to warm up to the idea of untwisting instead of uncorking, due in part to the perception of screw caps as “cheap wine.” Rather than bombard guests at my wine bar with research on alternative closures, I find the proof is in the pour, so I reach for a few wine glasses and a couple of my favorite bottles of white and red.

Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is the perfect place to start. This New Zealand wine explodes with bright aromas of lime, pear and green apple. The finish is tart and keen, inviting you to keep drinking, especially on a hot summer day. The fresh flavors and lively acidity are beautifully preserved under a screw cap, not unlike the estimated 70-90% of New Zealand wines currently forgoing cork for a more reliable closure. Still not convinced?

Two Hands ‘Gnarley Dudes’ Shiraz 2007 is the deal closer. This Australian powerhouse scored 90 points in Wine Spectator and 91 points in International Wine Cellar, where Stephen Tanzer describes the Shiraz as: Opaque, glass-staining purple. Pungent, strikingly floral nose combines blackberry, blueberry, Indian spices, violet and incense. Fleshy but light on its feet, with chewy dark berry flavors delivering solid flavor impact with minimal weight. Very graceful Shiraz. This is one wine that I am sure to keep on the shelf, at the risk of my customers launching a mutiny. No one challenges the screw cap closure, because frankly, the wine speaks for itself. Don’t believe me? Let’s revisit my experience with the young woman who was offended by the screw cap. Any guesses on what I poured her? All I can say is she gladly ordered a second glass of the ‘Gnarley Dudes’. I smile to myself as I reach for a new bottle and…twist. Cheers!

Reprinted with permission from AquaC Green Publishing and Aqua Cabana Magazine

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