Saturday, December 20, 2008

To Cork or Not to Cork, That is the Question

More and more wine producers are using metal screw caps to seal their wine bottles and the reasons are all good for the consumer.  The only real loss, in my opinion, is the romance associated with the sound of a cork erupting from the bottle.

You may have noticed that most wine bottles from New Zealand utilize screw caps and Australia is also going in that direction.  Why the shift from cork to metal closures?  TCA or trichloroanisole, a compound formed when chlorine used for bleaching reacts with mold already growing in the cork.  You've probably experienced the musty smell and dull taste of "corked" wine.  Unfortunately, humans are incredibly sensitive to TCA and can detect it in very weak solutions.

The problems with "corked" wine seems to be on the increase because cork manufacturers are having trouble finding enough high quality cork.  Of course, many bottlers are using synthetic cork, but many consumers find them difficult to remove, myself included.

The screw caps mostly used are called Stelvin capsules and are made up of a screw cap, a long printable skirt, and a liner specifically designed for contact with wine and to avoid leakage.  Stelvin seals have doubled in sales during the past two years, particularly in New Zealand and Australia, but also in the French wine areas of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Alsace.  Perhaps, when the French wineries begin bottling their premium wines with screw caps, we will know that they have achieved acceptance.

Dave Letterman's Top Ten Reasons for Using Metal Screw Caps (Dave didn't really do this list)

10.  Saves cork trees.
  9.  No more "Corked" bottles of wine.
  8.  Bottles can be stored standing up, rather than laying them down.
  7.  Easy to reseal.
  6.  A resealed bottle of wine won't leak while on its side in the refrigerator.
  5.  The screw cap won't break in half while opening the bottle.
  4.  You only need an opposable thumb to open a screw cap.
  3.  Easier to sneak one more glass before one will hear a cork pop.
  2.  My Trader Joe's monthly newsletter will be renamed, from "Uncorked" to "Unscrewed."

And the #1 reason for using a wine bottle with a screw cap rather than a cork...

  1.  Easier to sneak it into the movies.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hello, Abigail Adams.  Thank you for your comment. In response to your question, I admit to not having tried non-alcoholic wine in the past few years, but according to an article in the LA Times, where they rated the n/a wines, the Ariel sparkling wine was the closest to the real deal.  Try it and toast along with your friends!

I do enjoy n/a beers and find several of them to be quite satisfying.  I like the dark Kaliber, made by Guinness, and also St. Pauli Girl non-alcoholic, a lighter pilsner style beer.  

I hope this information is helpful to you.  Enjoy the holidays with some of that Ariel bubbly!

Tom da Wine Guy

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Economy and its Affect on My Wine Selections

With the economy as dark as Darth Vadar's heart, I've recently been hearing from our Trader Joe's wine customers how they are seeking less expensive, quality wines.  To that end, I've compiled some excellent wine varietals for your consideration.  Almost all are under $10 but still offer high quality.

Pinot Noir:  I'm enamored with the two Castle Rock pinots at Trader Joe's, both priced at $9.99. The California Cuvee is lighter in color and texture with more strawberry aromas.  The Mendocino County is darker, has more viscosity, darker fruit, and generally, is more intense. But I really appreciate both and the price is fantastic!  Both of these are designated as a "Tom's Choice."

Merlot:  The Cellar No.8 at $7.99 is unbelievable.  It has a slight edge and some personality. It's not one of those soft, flabby merlots.  Nope, this one is a hunk.  Another "Tom's Choice."

Cabernet Sauvignon: The Stonehedge Cab at $12.99 is in danger of being arrested for felonious assault because it is "kick-ass!"  It's huge with 15.5% alcohol, yet it's not hot, just very intense with tannins and lots of black fruit, especially, black currant.  I think that this cab is one of the best at TJ's for less than $20.  

Chardonnay: If you prefer some butter, try the Novella Chardonnay, bottled by EOS in Paso Robles, at $5.99 a bottle.  If you prefer a Chardonnay that's a little crisper and cleaner, go with the Sterling Vintner's at $8.99.  I think you'll be pleased.

Syrah:  Castoro Cellars,  a Paso Robles winery, offers a  Reserve Syrah at $9.99 a bottle,  It's a fantastic wine value.  Also, at TJ's Ventura, it's a "Tom's Choice." This wine is rich in color and has lots of spice and black pepper.  

Go to Trader's and check out some of these wines.  You'll be glad that you did.


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