Tag Archives: screwcaps

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wine trendsThis week’s wine news: Another winemaker says corks are outdated, plus more silly wine trends and wine gadgets

One more for our side: Cork is “a completely outdated“ technology, says a top Australian winemaker.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.

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.

The future of wine packaging

wine packagingCan the idea that canned wine is the next big thing in wine packaging

People who are supposed to know these things insist that wine packaging is about to undergo a revolution – specifically, that canned wine is the next big thing and will sooner rather than later compete with bottles as the package of choice.

In this, they are wrong. Wine packaging has remained the same for centuries – a bottle with a cork – and there is absolutely no reason to believe that canned wine’s future is any different than screwcaps or boxes. It will occupy a niche, and lots of people will like it. But most of us won’t even notice it. The wine business in the U.S. has spent almost 100 years teaching us that we have to buy wine in a 750 ml bottle with a cork, and you don’t undo that overnight.

Or, as one of the more clear-sighted analysts wrote: “In most countries, that packaging (whether it’s a $5 or $5,000 wine) is going to be a glass bottle, even though any number of containers can be used.”

So why the enthusiasm for canned wine? First, because it has grown exponentially over the past couple of years, up 125 percent in the year through the middle of 2016. Second, it’s something that should appeal to the two generations of wine drinkers younger than the Baby Boomers, who grew up on canned soft drinks and juice boxes and who aren’t supposed to be as fussy about bottles as the rest of us. Third, because the people who do trend analysis wouldn’t have anything to write about if they didn’t find a trend, and it isn’t easy to find trends in an industry as old-fashioned as wine.

In fact, here’s what the prognosticators don’t tell you about canned wine:

• “After years of packaging innovations, the traditional 750 ml wine bottle is more important to the domestic wine industry than ever.” The number of 750ml bottles sold increased 41 percent from 2010 to 2014, which is the same period that overall wine sales in the U.S., as measured by bottles sold, was up just 11 percent. This is premiumization’s work; who is going to pay $25 for a bottle of wine in can or box? Meanwhile, sales have fallen dramatically for the very cheapest wines, which lend themselves best to cans.

• That 125 percent growth was from a very tiny base. All told, canned wine accounted for $6.4 million in a $55 billion business, or about one-tenth of one percent.

• Retailers don’t like canned wine. Store shelves are designed to sell 750 ml bottles, and canned wine doesn’t fit on the shelves. That’s what happened to boxed wine, which was supposed to be the next big thing a decade ago. Retailers could never figure out how to display it, and so they shoved it to the back of the store.

Canned wine hasn’t solved the value/price problem. Much of it is more expensive than bottled wine, since we’re paying for convenience. But the quality of the wine usually isn’t worth the added cost. Much of the canned wine I’ve tasted was junk that would cost $4 or $5 for a 25-ounce bottle, not $5 for a 12-ounce can. Compare this to boxed wine, which has improved in quality and does offer value – and still remains a small part of the market, about three percent.

In the end, know that screw caps, which offer as much convenience as a can without any added cost to the consumer, have been around for decades. And they still account for just 20 percent of the market. How are cans going to do better than that?

Image courtesy of Whitney Anderson, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 460: Screwcaps, wine writing, wine prices

screwcapsThis week’s wine news: Screwcaps replaced by glass? Plus thoughts on wine writing and wine prices

Watch the heat: Here’s a reason not to use screwcaps – you can’t tell if the wine has been damaged by heat. This matters with expensive wine, says Penfolds’ Peter Gago, who makes very nice expensive wine. Who wants to buy a bottle of top-end red only to find out it’s off because it has been stored or shipped in conditions that are too warm? thedrinksbusiness website reports that a weeping cork – where some wine has leaked out – may mean the wine has been exposed to intense heat. Also, if the bottle gets too hot, the capsule – the cork covering – is pushed up. Neither happens with a screwcap, because it’s a better seal. In this, says Gago, glass will eventually become a better closure for expensive wine than either cork or screwcap. That’s a unique look at closures, and one that doesn’t apply to almost all the wine we drink since it costs less than $20 and isn’t around long enough to suffer heat damage.

Still awful: Erika Syzmanski is one of my favorite wine writers, mostly because she doesn’t write about wine. This is not damning with faint praise, but that Syzmanski understands there is more to wine writing than toasty and oaky. This piece is an excellent example, discussing not just why wine writing isn’t as good as it should be, but offering her ideas about what needs to be done: “This, fundamentally, is what makes me cringe when someone asks me about whether wine writing is becoming better, or whether we’re helping to make wine more accessible. Adding ramps to buildings is great, especially when we don’t destroy the architectural beauty of a good set of stairs doing so. Appreciate the stairs, keep the highfalutin’ publications, but simultaneously add a ramp for people who need or want to read something written more like Buzzfeed than like The Atlantic.” Which, of course, is what I have been arguing for years, though without her patience.

Grocery store wine: One reason supermarkets are so eager to carry wine is that they make more money on wine and have more control over the price. And that is becoming true for restaurants as well, which helps explain why their prices are so out of line. The grocery business is in the midst of what the experts are calling food deflation, where wholesale prices are decreasing, which means they can’t charge as much, and which means their profits are lower. This is starting to happen with restaurants, too. So how will restaurants prop up the bottom line? Continue to overcharge us for wine, to make up for what they can’t charge us for food.

Winebits 428: English wine, corks, Peter Mondavi

English wine ? Just like Champagne: Not the quality or flavor or price, but the appellation law. The European Union is expected to rule that sparkling wine from Sussex in England can be called Sussex, just like sparkling wine from Champagne in France is called Champagne. This known as protected status, and it’s an important development for usually little respected English wine. So, the next time you’re at your favorite wine bar in London, you won’t have to ask for a bottle of English sparkling — you can ask for a bottle of Sussex.

? Screwcaps are OK? There’s a journalism term called “parachuting in” that makes cranky ex-newspaper reporters even crankier, and this story from something called Business Insider looks to be classic parachuting. That’s when someone who doesn’t know much about the subject writes about it in a one-off and the story is mostly breathless prose telling us something we already knew. Such as: “While many bulk wines use screw caps ? which is likely where the stigma originated ? a screw cap is by no means and indicator of the quality of your wine.” No kidding. Where has this reporter been for the past 20 years? The rest of the story is mostly in the same vein, including the obligatory reference to the romance of the cork.

? Peter Mondavi: Peter Mondavi’s death at 101 didn’t elicit the same kind of response as that of his brother, Robert Mondavi, when the latter died in 2008. Chalk that up to the way the wine world works, and that Robert was a more public person than Peter. Nevertheless, Peter Mondavi was one of the people who made wine the way it is today, and the wine world would be significantly different if not for him. The Grape Collective ran its interview with Peter Mondavi, then 98, to commemorate his death, and it’s well worth watching.