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Screw-cap wines have more going for them than convenience

| Tuesday, June 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

June afternoons provide the perfect opportunity for enjoying casual, relaxed picnics in the park. Just pair simple, tasty foods and fresh, crusty bread with easy drinking — and easy opening — crisp wines.

Wines bottled with twist-off caps offer the most convenience. The days when “screw caps” meant cheap, uninspiring wines have long past. On the contrary, well-made wines with screw caps abound these days the world over to provide terrific value.

Enjoying well chilled, mouthwatering whites with relatively low alcohol maximizes refreshment. Try:

The 2012 Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet, France (Luxury: 32778; Chairman's Selection, on sale: $8.99) comes from southern French vineyards close by the Mediterranean Sea's azure beauty. In French, “picpoul” means “lip stinger,” an indication of this variety's tart acidity.

Growing the variety in the Languedoc region's unique terroir provides the key to success. Chalky, clay soils laced with colorful quartz gravel predominate. Dry springs and summers typically precede often rainy autumns. But persistent winds — the Marin from the sea, the Tramontane off surrounding mountains and the Mistral from the north — prevent molds from developing just before harvest.

The grapes, therefore, hang longer and ripen with ample fruitiness to create marvelous balance with the acidity. Pressing of the grapes immediately after harvest precedes fermentation in temperature controlled stainless-steel tanks. The process captures the fruit's natural aromas and fresh, pure flavors without oak influences.

The final wine's light straw color unfolds grapefruit, lemon and pear aromas. Zesty quince and pear flavors mingle with light briny notes. Firm acidity and a touch of lovely creaminess provide balance through the delicious, dry finish. Pair it with creamy shrimp and green onion salad. Offers 12.5 percent alcohol by volume.Highly recommended.

Enjoy the NV Broadbent Vinho Verde, Portugal (Luxury 11761; $9.99) for a delicious, authentic taste of the unpretentious, slightly bubbly “green wines” featured at bistros and winery cantinas throughout northern Portugal.

Made from indigenous loureiro, trajadura and pedernã (aka arinto) grapes grown in granite-rich, arid soils, the wine's crystal color clearly displays light, fizzy bubbles dancing delightfully. Refreshing apple aromas with subtle smoky hints lead to fruity grapefruit and melon flavors. The wine finishes dry with delightful fruitiness. Pair it with baguettes topped with sardines packed in olive oil. Offers 9 percent alcohol by volume. Highly recommended.

Deft winemaking allows the 2012 Erath Winer, Pinot Gris, Oregon (Luxury 46341; $14.99) to balance higher alcohol by volume — 13.5 percent. Whole-cluster pressing immediately before fermentation translates the grapes' rich ripeness balanced by the fruit natural acidity unadorned by oak-barrel influences.

Pear and ripe grapefruit aromas open in the glass. Crisp apple, honeydew melon and quince flavors follow through the dry, yet ample finish. Pair it with classic Jambon Beurre sandwiches — thinly sliced ham on buttered baguettes with cornichon pickles and spicy Dijon mustard. Recommended.

Finally don't miss the delightful NV Patrick Bottex Bugey-Cerdon “La Cueille” Méthode Ancestrale, France (Luxury 46436; $23.99). Admittedly, I cheated on this one. It is neither white nor topped with a screw cap. Yet this pink, lightly sparkling and thoroughly irresistible wine's cork still can be carefully eased out of the bottle without a corkscrew.

The Bottex family's domaine lies in Bugey, an appellation east of Lyon at the crossroads of the Savoie, the Jura, Burgundy, and the Rhône. Ancient Romans planted vines widely in the region.

With cool-climate, high-altitude vineyards featuring limestone rich soils, Bugey presents the perfect circumstances for growing grapes suitable for fruity, yet crisp, lightly sparkling wines. Patrick Bottex takes full advantage using labor-intensive lutte raisonnée, a farming method favoring hand-hoeing and clipping over all chemical treatments and mechanical equipment.

This wine consists primarily of the red-skinned gamay with a small amount of the indigenous poulsard grape. After hand-harvesting and partial fermentation with natural yeasts, the wine goes into bottle with small amounts of residual sugar. Teeming natural yeasts convert the sugar to sparkling bubbles captured inside.

The final wine's eye-catching, light cherry-red color unfolds lovely rose-petal and bright red-fruit aromas. Juicy red-fruit flavors with subtle earthy notes balance with crisp acidity through the soft and fruity finish. Pair it with either chicken or ham salad on baguettes. Offers 8 percent alcohol by volume. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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