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Twist and shout: Summer is here!



Summer arrives in less than week so I thought it might be fun to inspire Whistler's wealth of restaurants, especially those with outdoor patios, to start thinking about something lighter, fresher and fun to drink as warm weather descends on the village.

Not to put too fine a "twist" on it, but a delicious selection of screwcap wines is more than enough to turn any restaurant patio into a lunchtime oasis or the place for an al fresco evening bite. Yet, in a province that rightly boasts of a food and wine culture like no other in North America, I'm amazed at how entrenched some wine lists can become and how often they fail to be retooled in the spring and summer to reflect the style of food and wine we crave.

Frankly, it's time to lighten up and get out of the cellar and onto the patio where the sunlight and warm breezes will transform your thinking and your list.

For those of you still debating the merits of screwcaps, get over it. Screwcaps are here to stay at some level, especially if the grapes in question are sauvignon blanc, viognier, pinot grigio, rosé and most un-oaked white and you can add a certain sector of red wines to that list too.

I've just returned from tasting some 1,200 wines under $25 at the Wine Access 2009 International Value Wine Awards where nearly 60 percent of all the entries submitted were closed with a twist top. The experience of tasting so many screwcap wines only heightens your sensitivity to what I call "scalped" wines that are missing the top five percent of their most delicate and aromatic fruit aromas.

Why anyone would make an enticing aromatic wine and then remove the best part of its aroma by inserting a cork in the bottle and scalping off the very finest of esters and aromas no longer makes any sense to this taster. Forget about the dreaded TCA or "corked" wine issue, it's the scalping that's even more widespread and occurs with sound corks.

Of course, screwcaps have an even broader appeal for those of us fed up with wines suffering from the dreaded cork taint and its mix of mildew, mould and wet basement odours. All of us appear to be quickly accepting the easy-to-open twist-offs and in many cases opting to choose a screwcap over a corked wine because it's simply too easy to open and serve. All the more reason to head for the patio as the weather improves.

Here's a current list of twist-off favourites that will brighten any outdoor party, lunch or dinner and you won't need a cork screw to get started.

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