Tag Archives: corks

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.

Winebits 501: Wine closures edition

wine closuresThis week’s wine news: All about wine closures, including a Coravin for screwcaps, a brain wave test, and wine condoms

Even for screwcaps: The Coravin, the $300 wine opener that made a huge impression with wine geeks, restaurants, and the Winestream Media, will debut a product for screwcap wines later this year. This is an intriguing development, given that screwcap wines aren’t supposed to require a pricey opener. Because, after all, they’re screwcaps. But the company saw a need, so developed a product that works with the metal caps. The catch? You need the $300 Coravin and a package of $30 proprietary screwcaps to make it work – which is more than I would spend. But the system claims to keep the wine fresh for up to three months, which sounds more like something for a restaurant than the Wine Curmudgeon’s house. Opened wine doesn’t last three days, let alone three months.

Corks vs. screwcaps: Oxford University researchers will study wine drinkers’ brains while they sip to determine whether wine tastes better if it’s closed with corks or screw caps. The story, though touting brain wave machines, doesn’t say if the wine drinkers will taste the wine blind or if they’ll know ahead of time whether the wine has a cork or a screwcap, something that would make a tremendous difference given the prejudice against screwcaps. In addition, the study is being sponsored by a cork trade group, and we know what that means, don’t we?

Such a prophylactic: Yes, wine condoms. The idea is to slip them over the bottle opening just like one would slip a Trojan on a man. The product is supposed to make leftover wine easier to store in the refrigerator; however, I didn’t ask for a sample from the publicist who sent the email. For one thing, I rarely have leftover wine to put away. For another, screwcaps. For a third, if I liked the product, I’d have to write about it. And I’ve been writing long enough to know how difficult that would be to do without resorting to juvenile antics. The prose on the website is bad enough.

Winebits 497: Corks, Robert Parker, outer space wine

outer space wine

My brother’s wine is much better than the plonk we make here.

This week’s wine news: The cork industry says wine drinkers prefer corks, plus the Michelin Guide gets into the Winestream Media and outer space wine

Who would have thought it? A new study says U.S. wine drinkers prefer corks, which would be amazing news save for one thing – the cork industry paid for the study. So when the report says that 97 percent of us think cork is an indicator of wine quality, it’s so much hooey. Because what would you expect a survey paid for by the cork industry to reveal? That 97 percent of us think screwcaps are a better closure? The cork business is notorious for this kind of thing, and I have written about it before. One day, perhaps, cork producers will figure out we’re not so easily fooled. Until then, I will keep reminding them of that point.

A one-star winery? The Michelin Guide, perhaps the best-known restaurant rating service in the world, has bought 40 percent of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate magazine. This is another indication of the continuing premiumization of all parts of the wine business, since Michelin focuses on high end restaurants and sees the Advocate as a chance to enrich the restaurant guide part of its business.” This is the second time the Advocate has been sold; Asian investors bought most of the company from Parker a couple of years ago.

Outer space wine: Can wine be made in outer space? That’s the question Gizmodo website put to the woman at NASA who runs the space agency’s crop program. The answer? Maybe, maybe not, given the challenges involved in growing and then fermenting the grapes. And even then it wouldn’t matter much: Given the size of the International Space Station, there’s enough room for just one bottle’s worth of grapes.