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.

2 thoughts on “Winebits 460: Screwcaps, wine writing, wine prices

  • By Erika Szymanski - Reply

    Thanks, Jeff; that approbation means a lot coming from you. And agreed that I don’t write about wine so much as I write with or around wine. The way I usually put it is that wine is a good topoi (to use Aristotle’s rhetorical term): it’s a good tool for talking about other things. One of the better things Richard Feynman said was “all mass is interaction.” Much as I love wine for its own sake (whatever that means), the mass of wine is most fun and worthwhile when it interacts with things.

  • By Dave Buchanan - Reply

    I love reading your stuff….
    And Erika’s, too, although she lost me when she talked about “the enthusiastic greeters.”
    You talk about recognizing a wine’s origins, varietal correctness, etc and I wonder how we’re supposed to know a malvar if the Madrileños keep it to themselves.
    Thanks for the tip.

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