Winemakers are slowly adopting screw-cap closures, because, for white wine especially, they just make sense. True, the ritual of opening a bottle of wine suffers when the room fills with the sound of a quick crack rather than a slow, suctioned pop, but it’s a small compromise for an untainted bottle of wine that doesn’t smell and taste like a stack of moldy newspapers.
The biggest debate among winemakers is whether screw caps are the correct choice for aging red wine. Screw caps allow for less oxygen exposure, which means the wine will age far slower than if closed with a cork. Aging, of course, is imperative for many wines to reach maturity and optimum flavor. A few wineries have conducted their own experiments, and Penfolds, one of the leading Shiraz producers, has recently released its less expensive Koonunga Hills label with a screw cap. But the effects the screw cap will have on long-term aging are still unknown.
Get acquainted with the screw cap through a few affordable, quality options that are ready to drink now. Cypress Chardonnay, California, 2003 ($8.49) is saturated with citrus fruit, including nectarine and pineapple, but well-rounded with good acidity, making it a great choice for buttery seafood dishes. Cypress Shiraz, California, 2002 ($7.99) has a gorgeous dark color packed with black fruit in the nose and cassis and black pepper on the palate. Another solid choice is Annie’s Lane Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia, 2003 ($16). Its lime characteristics, matched with a long finish, make a simple meal of soup and salad seem like a treat. Hogue Cellars, out of Washington’s Columbia Valley, has a lineup of screw caps that doesn’t disappoint. Try the Late Harvest White Riesling ($8.99) for a nice blend of dried apricot and raisin with vanilla and powdered sugar.
Cypress Chardonnay and Hogue Cellars Late Harvest White Riesling are available at Central Market (5750 E. Lovers Ln.; 214-234-7000). Cypress Shiraz is available at (3858 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 165; 214-219-6758). Annie’s Lane Riesling is available at Best Cellars (3205 Knox St.; 214-252-9463).