Tag Archives: corks

Corks: The most dangerous wine closure in the world

Watch this video, and you’ll understand how dangerous corks are

The Wine Curmudgeon will make no other comment on the following, other than this: “This young man would not have nearly blown up his kitchen if all wines had screwcaps.”

The complete story is here, via BuzzFeed. Lawrence Guo of San Leandro, Calif., wanted to open a bottle of rose, but his corkscrew broke. Disaster then ensued. He tried opening the bottle with a lighter, similar to a video he had seen on YouTube (and which we have detailed here).

When that didn’t work, he used the flame on a gas stove. The results were, in Guo’s words, disastrous – “we could have died,” he said. The bottle shattered, glass flew everywhere, and Guo and his friend were lucky to avoid injury.

He offers a lengthy explanation about what went wrong, quoting thermal shock, molecular vapor expansion, and vapor pressure. But we know the real reason.

Corks.

“We tried everything we could to open it, but the cork wouldn’t budge,” Guo told Buzzfeed. “I would advise to wear some better protective gear covering vital body parts if this were to be replicated.”

None of which you need with a screwcap.

New and easier to use motor oil containers, but same old wine bottles

wine bottles

Something’s wrong here — not a cork or punt in sight.

Even the conservative and old-fashioned motor oil business realizes packaging matters. So why doesn’t the wine business?

Does this quote sound familiar?

“We are far more conservative in the marketing of our products. We are almost apologetic. While other industries focus on creating products that are distinctly different and stand out from the crowd, we do the exact opposite.”

No, it’s not the wine business, which considers screwcaps the spawn of the devil and still thinks chateau wine labels are a big deal. It’s the motor oil business, as described by a long-time senior official at Valvoline.

So when Valvoline comes out with a truly innovative product – a five-quart, easy-open, easy pour, ergonomic motor oil bottle, what does that say about the wine business and its outdated and ridiculously stubborn reliance on the 750-ml bottle and its cork closure?

Not much. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

The genesis for this post came after talking to a friend about wine packaging. He described a trade show seminar where a packaging consultant told the audience that the dizzying array of wine bottles – their shapes, sizes, and closures – were expensive, inefficient, and hurt sales and profits. He couldn’t help them until they decided to get serious about wine packaging.

And then I saw a TV ad for the new Valvoline bottle, and I literally shook my head in despair. Valvoline wanted a new container that would make changing oil easier and less messy, but that fit on store shelves the way the current container does. In other words, it saw a problem and wanted to fix it to sell more product.

By contrast, how many times has anyone in the wine business said opening a wine bottle should be easier? Hardly ever. And how many times has anyone said the wine business should spend money to solve that problem? Even less than hardly ever.

The solution to this exists, by the way. There is a wine equivalent of the new Valvoline bottle – plastic, or PET, bottles. They have a smaller carbon footprint and weigh up to eight times less than glass, are almost unbreakable, use screwcaps, and fit on a shelf like a glass bottle. There was a push to use PET for wine about a decade ago, and you’ll see PET beer bottles, but the wine initiative never got anywhere. Is anyone surprised?

More about wine packaging:
It’s not the quality of the wine — it’s the sound of the cork popping
Will canned wine solve all of the wine business’ problems?
Four wine myths that confuse consumers

Winebits 554: Three-tier, Aldi wine, corks

three-tierThis week’s wine news: North Carolina state liquor agency has been wasting taxpayer money for years, plus Aldi says it will upgrade its wine aisle and corks are now perfect

Are we surprised? North Carolina’s state-run liquor stores have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars through more than a decade of mismanagement, reports the News & Observer newspaper in Charlotte. The state auditor told the newspaper that $11.3 million vanished from Alcoholic Beverage Commission coffers in 13 years. “There was just no overview, no oversight,” she said. “There was no monitoring of that contract. You just had a contractor come up and say ‘I want more money,’ … and whatever the contractor asked for, it was what they got.” The irony here? State-owned liquor stores exist as part of the three-tier system in some 17 places, to prevent organized crime from corrupting the process. But who needs organized crime when you can get away with this? “Every year since 2004, the audit found, the [agency] authorized more state spending than it was allowed to. … The [agency] has four in-house lawyers, as well as a 12-person internal auditing team and multiple levels of management.”

I’ll believe it when I see it: The Wine Curmudgeon long ago stopped trusting discount grocery Aldi when it came to wine; I’ve spent too much time shopping there to swallow the chain’s wine hooey when the big seller is Winking Owl. But Aldi is at it again, “touting its award-winning wines” as part of a four-year, $5.3 billion remodeling and expansion effort in an interview with Forbes. I’ll repeat the interview I had with my store manager when the remodel and expansion was announced: “Wine? We have lots of wine. Why do we need more?” It would be one thing if Aldi added the cheap, high-quality wines it sells in Europe, but it appears to have taken the path used by most U.S. supermarkets – cheap, poorly made wine, sold because it’s cheap.

Corks are now perfect: Or so say the cork people, in announcing its latest tech upgrade in cork production. “This will change the wine world,” says the headline, but it doesn’t include the caveat for the worse. It’s good to know that we will still need a special, difficult to use tool to open a wine bottle when more and more people are not drinking wine. That’s sure to do convince them to move over to wine. By the way, those of you will are going to cancel your email or RSS subscription to the blog (because several of you always do when I write about corks): Use the safely unsubscribe button at the bottom of the email.

Winebits 541: Iced tea wine, wine delivery apps, and a new cork wine closure

iced tea wine

Just like a screwcap, but made of cork.

This week’s wine news: First coffee wine, so why not iced tea wine? Plus, developments among wine delivery apps and a cork closure that doesn’t need a corkscrew

Yes, it’s sweet: If there’s coffee wine, why not iced tea wine? Natchez Hills Winery, near Nashville, Tenn., has released a wine made with 100 percent sweet tea, fermented just like grapes are to make wine. And, since canned wine is trendy, says the winery’s news release, it comes in a can. What have we wrought with Drin

k Local? I haven’t tasted this, and not sure I want to (I drink unsweetened tea), but any Southerners in the audience who are brave enough are welcome to take notes and send them in. We’ll get them on the blog.

Wine at your door: Liza Zimmerman, writing for Forbes, updates the overcrowded world of wine delivery apps like Drizly and Minibar: They remain mostly local, retailers are increasingly wary of letting someone else handle their delivery, and opportunities abound. Sort of, anyway, given Amazon’s withdrawal from the market and the increasing presence of grocery store delivery services like Instacart.

Just like a screwcap: Hate corks, but miss the cork popping when you open a bottle of wine? Then consider wine using the Helix closure – it has threads so it can be unscrewed, but is made of cork . The catch? It’s not on many wines yet. The most interesting bit? That Anorim, the world’s leading cork producer, is the company that developed the Helix. I guess if you can’t beat screwcaps, you might as well copy them.

Says the Internet: Corks are the greatest wine closure ever; why use anything else?

corks

After I get the car started, I’m buying wine with a cork. Because of the romance.

Because corks are 19th century technology, and I don’t use a hand crank to start my car, do I?

The Wine Curmudgeon stands corrected. How could I have ever been so wrong about corks, and especially given how how much the cyber-ether loves corks these days?

How could I not see that corks are “the bodyguard of wine, more than a closure?” Or that corks are essential “when it comes to opening a treasured bottle… . the time-honored custom of pulling that cork and savoring the perfume as it escapes from the bottle.”

And some wine drinkers actually wonder why people make fun of us.

It’s the 21st century; corks are 19th century technology. That they’re still used on 70 percent of all wine speaks to how out of touch the wine business is with the 21st century. After all, do we still use a hand crank to start a car? It’s certainly more romantic than a key – or even, heaven forbid, a push button.

Much of the current kissy face for corks is apparently the result of another PR offensive from the cork business (none of which, for some reason, ever seems to include me). We get these periodically, to remind us that we should appreciate a closure that fails as much as five percent of the time and that requires a special tool. Because, of course, that’s part of the romance.

And some wine drinkers actually wonder why people make fun of us.

This is usually the part of my cork posts when the cork aficionados in the audience get red in the face, mutter under their breath, and cancel their subscription to the blog. How dare he criticize corks? Doesn’t he understand screwcaps may be OK for the junk he drinks, but that real wine requires a cork?

We’ll ignore the real wine crack. I’m used to it after all these years. But the biggest fallacy about corks is that they’re the only closure that ages wine properly. Because, as this study shows, screwcaps can age wine, too. They just do it differently.

Which brings us to the point that every cork marketing push overlooks. And why not, since it shows how irrelevant corks are in the 21st century? Almost all of the wine the world drinks – most estimates are more than 90 percent – isn’t made to age. Most wine is made to drink for dinner that night. So the closure, as long as it keeps the wine fresh and from spilling out of the bottle, doesn’t matter at all. But do we use the easiest, most convenient closure? Of course not. We’d lose the romance.

And some wine drinkers actually wonder why people make fun of us.

wine closures

Bic lighters, wine corks, and screwcaps

How quaint: Let’s use a lighter to push open a wine cork

Those of you holding out, who still think wine must have a cork closure, should watch the entire 1:46 of this video to be reminded that wine corks are 19th century technology.

Yes, it’s a neat party trick. But that’s what people used to say about wearing a lampshade, and we don’t do that anymore, do we? And, sadly, I have encountered more than one bottle over the years where the cork was pushed up like that and no one took a lighter to it. That’s called sitting in a hot warehouse.

A wine closure, like any other food seal, should be easy to use and safe for both the product and the consumer. None of which, as the brave fellow here demonstrates, applies to corks. Only wine would make the product so complicated that it discourages people from buying it – and let’s not forget that the gadget used to open the wine can cost more than the wine itself.

In other words, when’s the last time you needed a corkscrew to open a bottle of ketchup?

Video courtesy of Hacker 007 via Youtube, using a Creative Commons license

It’s not the quality of the wine – it’s the sound of the cork popping

wine vintagesThe latest cork industry study claims we don’t care about quality, but only about the romance of the cork

Corks almost always score better than screwcaps in consumer surveys, which can usually be explained by the source of the survey: the cork industry. Hence this study, also paid for by the cork industry, but that actually sheds light on all this foolishness. The reason so many of us claim to prefer corks? It’s not the quality of the wine, but the sound of the cork popping.

Can the wine business get any screwier?

British researchers asked 140 people to rate two identical wines. They tasted one wine after hearing the sound of a cork popping and one wine after hearing a screwcap being opened. They were then asked to actually open both bottles and rate the wines again. Overall, reports thedrinksbusiness trade magazine, participants rated the same wine as 15 percent better when served under a cork than a screwcap.

Again, these were the same wines, and the only difference was the sound played when the wine was tasted. Or, as the study’s lead researcher said: “The sound and sight of a cork being popped sets our expectations before the wine has even touched our lips, and these expectations then anchor our subsequent tasting experience.”

So nuts to what the wine tastes like. Bring on the cork popping!

Which raises yet another question – why would the cork business claim wine drinkers don’t care about quality, but only the sound of the cork? That’s incredibly cynical, even for the wine business.

The other thing to note here? Several people will cancel their email subscription to the blog after they read this, which happens every time I find corks lacking. Which then makes me wonder if the study is really on to something.