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01.13.2006

Corks and Screwcaps on The Battlefield

I heard them long before they approached. The ground rumbled and the few trees that still clung to their leaves during this cold month finally shed them all, perhaps in fear that they be thought to hide anything, or worse yet, be mistaken for the WRONG sort of tree, if you get my meaning. From over the southwestern horizon I heard the rumbling of their metal roundness. Should the news not have reached you yet, in whatever kingdom you call home, let me be the first to herald the news. The Stelvin Army has sailed from far shores in the service of a great new crusade. This self organized group of lowly merchants has been possessed of some otherworldly spirit, and in its grasp they sweep through foreign lands breaking the shackles of tradition wherever they go, and purging the countryside of the dreaded TCA which for so long has held peasants and nobles alike in fear.

I have not lived long on this Earth, yet I do know this much: when a mighty force of the people embarks on a journey of liberation, by very force of its conviction, it shakes the halls of the powerful, who cannot help but respond with their own force, should they care for their own survival. Everything must have its balance, every acid, its fruit, every red, it's white.

So I was not surprised when, not days after the first sign of the Stelvin army began to flicker on the horizon, that the government's opposing force took to the roads. But this was no populist army driven by a mission from Bacchus. No, this was a well organized and funded government army who saw in the approaching Stelvins an end to a way of life for their people, and a grave threat to the economy. With the force of a whole government, even a whole nation behind them, the army of Cork chose a sporting hero to lead them into battle, one which they hoped would stir the spirit of the people to help rise up and oppose the winds of change.

So here I sit, on my hill above the vast plains of winedom, as the banners of the two forces march into view. It will not be long before a pitched and lingering battle takes place. It will be a battle of tradition against technology, aesthetics against convenience, and the interests of drinkers against the interest of cork farmers. Like most battles that merge ideology and money, each side has legitimate grievances, but as a drinker, I cannot help but for the Stelvins to prevail. It will be difficult for the conquered at first, to lose their livelihoods and to let their precious trees alone, but in the end it will be for the best.

The wine world is ripe for revolution.

Comments (15)

Iris wrote:
01.13.06 at 4:17 PM

As life returns to normal, the question of another attack from Stelvin causes universal concern. Are our bottles with the pleasant "plop" are safe, or is this time of peace merely a reprieve? It may be that across the immensity of space, they have learned their lessons , and even now await their opportunity. Perhaps the future belongs not to us, but to Stelvin...

allan wrote:
01.14.06 at 6:16 AM

So, where do synthetic corks fall in this epic battle? Have the aligned themselved with one side or the other -- or are they like Sweden staying on the sidelines waiting to see what happens?

megan wrote:
01.14.06 at 10:43 AM

Synthetic corks are a great mystery--universally reviled, yet more and more frequently used. They should all be destroyed, and they should only be mentioned as a way to warn future generations of their horrors.

01.15.06 at 9:52 PM

I really dislike synthetic corks. They are too smooth and look like bullets, or perhaps errant pieces from some assembly-type plastic toy for kids. They don't stain up like cork and just seem FUNCTIONAL - stoppers to jam in the bottle.

Another gripe I have, is the increasing tendency to use plastic bottles for whisky. I even saw a fairly decent brandy the other day in a plastic container that resembled a washing detergent bottle. I refuse to buy liquor in any "bottle" that squeaks and that you can compress between thumb and forefinger.

I wonder how long it will be before someone dreams up the perfect plastic wine bottle with a quiz on the back you can mail in, on the off chance you might win a vacation to Disney World?

A few people have had difficulty on and off linking off my url - you can also Google Aidan Maconachy Main Blog

TheFatMan wrote:
01.17.06 at 1:38 PM

So the synthetic dislike is simply an asthetic one? There's no argument against it from any other more...objective standpoint?

Alder wrote:
01.17.06 at 1:48 PM

FatMan,

In my experience, they can sometimes be really difficult to remove from bottles (as they have to be forced into the bottle very hard to get the appropriate airtight seal) and some people claim that they can lend a slight plastic aroma/flavor to the wine, but I have yet to determine if that is the case, myself.

Not enough to codemn them in my book, but if the choice is there between the synth cork and screwcap, I'll take screwcap any day.

TheFatMan wrote:
01.17.06 at 2:47 PM

The part I find interesting about it, from a non-objective (and certainly, non-confident) wine drinker's point of view is the perception of the cork.

A normal, regular old cork screams authenticity. A synthetic, plastic cork screams cheap & affordable. A screwcap screams Maddog 20/20.

Now that's my personal perspective, of course, but I think its one of the reasons that wine, in and of itself, is still seen as a 'upper class' drink. When past achievements are celebrated as much as they are in wine, then the changing of the formula that made those 'good old days' what they were is seen with increasing derision.

The synthetic cork, while unauthentic, is still superior to the screwcap which eliminates a part of the mystical 'good old days' formula entirely.

As the modern world creeps further and further into even those most guarded old world treasures, these sorts of arguments occur.

It just makes me wonder if this is one of those arguments that will always remain until the generations that have grown up solely with synthetic corks outnumber the ones who remember a world without them (and then those generations who grow up exclusively with screwcaps...).

01.17.06 at 7:52 PM

I'm not 100% sure if my recall is correct on this, but back in the 70's when I was a student and penniless, I hitch hiked through France with a friend and we purchased the cheapest vino available. I can almost swear they were screw top bottles back then - at least for the lower end stuff.

I also remember that the humble cabs we purchased were actually pretty good, especially with bread and cheese.

lagramiere wrote:
01.19.06 at 9:57 AM

I am really surprised that this posting didn't inspire more comments. This is a very interesting question that merits more discussion. As a small winery considering whether or not to rock the boat and use screw caps, I thought there would be more of a response. In asking friends, I have heard arguments for both sides of the issue. In the end though, what prevailed was that at a lower-end price range, say $7-20, many people were for the idea of a no-risk closure. That said, I'm not sure why you'd want to take that risk on an expensive bottle either...

Iris wrote:
01.19.06 at 10:00 AM

Aidan, I don't think that they were screw tops, but - if you're talking about the 1 litre bottles with the stars in the glass around the bottle-neck - they had small plastic caps underneath the tax-seal. They were "consigné", which means, that you could bring them back to the shop and get some Centimes back. I think, nowadays, these wines are still sold, but in plastic bottles and you have to throw them away once emptied - but I'm not a specialist of that kind of beverage.

01.20.06 at 2:53 PM

Iris - that's exactly what they were. All I was able to recall was that they weren't simply corked bottles.

Thanks for the info.

Alder wrote:
01.23.06 at 8:56 PM

Amy,

Late in responding, but thanks for your comments. The conversation is far from over on this subject. We will all see more about it in the coming years.

Alder

Micky wrote:
01.30.06 at 2:36 PM

Donny Boon told me at their wine tasting place that wine with a screw cap takes 2 1/2 times as long to "age" as does a bottle with a cork. I fear it will be years before we really begin to realize the full implications of the screw cap. I prefer them in principle, but I shudder at the thought of having to lay down bottles 2 1/2 times longer.

Has anyone heard any buzz on this particular subject?

Alder wrote:
01.30.06 at 5:55 PM

Micky,

As far as I know, there is no scientific basis for their claims, and to my knowledge they really have not been using screwcaps long enough themselves to assert that with any confidence.

With the exception of the Cigare Volant and another dark red blend whose name escapes me, most of Bonny Doon's wines are not ones that I would lay down for any more than a couple/few years anyway.

JoeFriday wrote:
01.31.06 at 6:10 PM

My opinion is why bother with screwcaps? if they're going to go that route, we might as well skip straight to the plastic bottles such as Evian comes in.. preferably the sport bottle type that can be resealed.. that would be the height of efficiency.. and like screwcaps, the nadir of culture

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