Tag Archives: corks

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.

Winebits 492: Corks, wine trends, wine gadgets

wine trendsThis week’s wine news: Another winemaker says corks are outdated, plus more silly wine trends and wine gadgets

One more for our side: Cork is “a completely outdated“ technology, says a top Australian winemaker. Thedrinksbusiness website reports that Kym Milne, chief winemaker at Bird in Hand in the Adelaide Hills, told the London Wine Fair that “As wines age cork gives enormous variability – try 12 bottles from the same case and you’ll have 12 different wines. There’s too much variation from putting a piece of wood in the end of a bottle.” Needless to say, all of the wines at Bird in Hand – including the US$70 Nest Egg shiraz – use screwcaps.

Who knew? Who says sommeliers can be stuffy and are out of touch with ordinary wine drinkers? That certainly isn’t the case for the trio of wine professionals who appeared in this Food & Wine article about wine trends, which included the dreaded blue wine. They didn’t exactly hate blue wine, which surprised me, but I was impressed with this: “The trend of making wine for people who hate wine confounds me.” Welcome to the wine business, pal, where that seems to be the goal entirely too often.

Who is kidding who? How do you not get drunk? Don’t drink too much wine. Unless, of course, you’re an entrepreneur in Dallas who says you should put his magic wand in your booze. Read the story at the link at your peril; I don’t have the energy to comment on it. What I do know is that I have many better things to do with $25 – or even $70 – that the gizmo costs. Many, many, many better things.

Winebits 469: U.S. wine consumption, corks, flavored tannins

U.S. wine consumptionThis week’s wine news: U.S. wine consumption lags the world, plus corks make a comeback and fake tannins

16th is pretty sad: U.S. per capita wine consumption, a little more than a bottle a month, is 16th among the word’s 21 biggest wine consuming countries. Which is depressing enough, since we had a wine revolution in this country over the past 20 years. But even more depressing – that figure has been flat since I started writing the blog 10 years ago. We can talk about how much the country drinks overall and we can talk about how much we spend, but as I have written many times before, Americans aren’t all that interested in wine and most of the wine we drink is consumed by a hard-cord group of frequent wine drinkers. And until we make wine more accessible and easier to understand, that will continue to be the case.

A technologically perfect cork? Talk to winemakers, and they’ll tell you that advances in cork manufacture have all but eliminated cork taint – the chemical compound that gets into wine from a flawed cork and ruins the wine. This story from Reuters expands on the subject, and talks about how cork is making a comeback with producers at the expense of screw caps. Cork is used on about 60 percent of wine bottles in the U.S. and around 70 percent worldwide; the remainder are plastic and composite corks (10 percent) and screwcaps (20 percent). Even this, though, is much less than the late 20th century,when cork controlled 95 percent of the market. The story misses one point, which goes to the heart of the U.S. wine consumption problem. No matter how good corks are as a closure, they aren’t as easy to open as a screwcap.

Just like fake oak: Tannins occur naturally in wine from the tannic acid in the grape’s skins, stems, and seeds, and well-made wines at any price must take tannins into account. But adding fake tannins – literally, a bottle of tannic acid – is not uncommon, as this news release demonstrates. “Oenotan is an all-natural, water soluble, freeze-dried, tannin crystal made from 2 year air-dried French oak. … is available in three distinct profiles, Authentique, Vanilla and Mocha.” Yummy, huh? And people wonder why the wine business doesn’t want ingredient labels.

Even machines have trouble opening wine bottles with corks

How much trouble can opening a bottle with a cork be? Just watch

Need any more convincing that corks are trouble? Than check out this YouTube video from F-Jokes, in which a machine that looks like a cross between William F. Gibson steampunk and Rube Goldberg uncorks a bottle, and then, to quote guy running the demonstration, “Keep your fingers crossed that it’s going to pour us a glass of wine.”

None of this, of course, would be necessary if the wine had a screwcap.

Winebits 480: Vegan wine, corks, oak

vegan wineThis week’s wine news: Once more into the vegan wine breach, plus cork propaganda and the truth about oak

No, no, no: Periodically, a general interest magazine or website will warn vegans not to drink wine because wine can be fined, a form of filtering, that uses egg whites. When this happens, the Wine Curmudgeon must step into the breach and remind vegans that it’s rare to find egg whites used in the wine that most of us drink. It’s too expensive and too time consuming, so most wine is filtered through a form of gravel, called perlite, or clay, called bentonite, or pads made with material like cellulose. In this, most of the wine we drink is vegan – which, of course, is no guarantee that it will be worth drinking.

Tradition! The Wine Curmudgeon’s long-time aversion to corks – you try opening a dozen bottles of wine closed with cork for a party or event, and tell me how you feel – makes me question almost every bit of cork news I see. Hence, this bit about how wonderful cork is because about half of the wine found in a 170-year-old shipwreck was closed with cork and still drinkable. Which is wonderful news for those of us who drink 170-year-old wine found in shipwrecks. However, for the other 99 percent of us, screwcaps do the job and they don’t require a special tool.

Well said: Periodically, when the WC despairs for the future of wine, I read something like this, from a representative of one of the best producers in France’s Burgundy: “We are just custodians of the soil, and we will look after it until we die. It will still be there when we are gone and we need to be humble about it and not take it for granted.” How can one argue with that? Marco Caschera, the commercial director for Vincent Girardin, also caught my attention with this: “Oak is only good for making tables and chairs. If you taste oak it’s the winemaker’s fault. Even if the wine has been aged in barrel you should only be able to taste the fruit. … All work should be done in the vineyard and not in the winery. It should just be about the soil.”

wine value 2018

One more reason why we need screwcaps

You can’t burn your house down when your wine is closed with a screwcap

One of the the Wine Curmudgeon’s many quixotic battles is the crusade to replace corks with screwcaps, which are not only easier to use but provide a better seal. And when one opens as many bottles of wine as I do, the romance of corks is about as romantic as a can of chili.

Which brings us to this video, in which sommelier Jonathan Ross uses heated tongs to open a bottle of wine. I can’t decide if this is more dangerous than using a sabre, or just as dangerous in a completely different way. Probably more dangerous, since you can’t burn your house down with a sabre.

And, of course, totally unnecessary with a screwcap.

The video is courtesy of Business Insider on YouTube, with a tip o’ the WC’s fedora to our old pal Jameson Fink when he was with Grape Collective.