The Larousse Encyclopedia of Wine makes a good case for cork as the ideal bottle stopper. It says that cork's elasticity lets it conform to the neck, forming an impenetrable seal. And, theoretically, we'll never run out of the stuff. Cork oak trees, harvested mainly in Portugal and the western Mediterranean, cheerfully regenerate their bark. But lately, a big dirty fly looms longingly over the ointment, in the form of organic pollutants that taint the cork and the fiscal projections it generates (wine seals, it seems, account for about 70 percent of the $1.3 billion cork industry).
That's a bite in the butt, because a survey conducted for the Portuguese Cork Association shows that 81 percent of American wine drinkers would rather extract their stoppers than rotate them. The 19 percent who don't care might want to stop at Henry's and fork over $8.99 (on-sale for a limited time) for a twist-open bottle of Sangiovese, from Tamás Estates Winery in Northern California's Livermore Valley. This red compensates eagerly, almost apologetically, for what it lacks on top. Berry and pomegranate flavors barrel to the back of the throat without effort, the waterfall effect washing down the pizza and spaghetti complements that this requires. Some wines are designed with a restful fire and a gentle tap on the shoulder in mind-this one delivers a welcome crack to the nape of the neck as UCLA beats USC in overtime.
Still, there's a kind of emptiness without that blunt, familiar "pop" in the mix-opening this bottle is sort of like sleeping with your girlfriend's web page. If you can get past the void, you'll have a good time with this one.
-Martin Jones Westlin