I've long been critical of the great, and outlandish lengths that cork producers seem to go to create negative sentiment towards alternative wine closures, and to promote their own products as the only real choice.
I thought they had stooped about as low as they could go when they suggested that buying wine closed with screwcaps was killing an endangered species, but now they've outdone themselves with their latest series of ads.
In a remarkable feat of crass and loathsome marketing, the cork lobby has managed to both insult the intelligence of women, and every wine lover that has ever bought a bottle wine with an alternative closure.
Clever to be sure. Full of great little moments, like the drooping cork, and lines like "swarthy Portuguese farmers". And totally based in reality, right? Of course. Women are so shallow as to decide who they sleep with based on wine closures.
And then there's this one:
Yep, ladies, open that screwcap and you're a "conniving, brown nosing, ambitious wench.. back stabbing, double porking (?) amoral, trixie... corporate lackey to the big oil companies that poison our air and birth those devil screwcaps."
While you're ridiculing the intelligence of women, why not take the opportunity to throw "the public sector" under the bus, too?
There's just so many things wrong with these ads. Starting with Mr. Garth Lockwood "Master Sommelier" (who by the way, does not appear anywhere in the list of actual Master Sommeliers). This image of the haughty, upper class wine snob is exactly what keeps more Americans from enjoying wine, fearful as they are of making some sort of faux pas, like mis-pronouncing Merlot. You'd think that an industry whose vital interests depended upon more people drinking wine might want to encourage it, rather than add more anxiety onto the pile that keeps people from embracing wine more fully.
Then there's the implication that any wine closed with an alternative stopper is inferior. Let's humiliate all the folks that can really only afford wines closed with something other than an expensive natural cork, shall we? That will do wonders for the wine world.
Oh, and not only will we make them feel like cheapskates, let's try to make them feel worse, by suggesting that not only are they buying inferior wine that will make people think less of them, but they're also going to be poisoning the planet.
What a load of crap. Sure, cork is a renewable resource. But it's also a massive industrial product that produces an awful lot of waste both in terms of chemicals and carbon dioxide. Less than screwcaps? Perhaps, and certainly corks are more biodegradable. But we're not talking about the difference between solar power and coal here.
And where does this notion that the big oil companies are responsible for "birthing those devil screwcaps" come from? Last time I checked most of them were aluminum. Sure, there's a liner that's a petroleum product, but I guess big oil is a better punching bag these days.
Clearly a lot of money is being spent here. I can't help but wonder what the cork industry is thinking. Sure, they're in a pickle (of their own making) that has demand for cork dropping. But certainly there has to be a better way to promote your product than insulting people and making highly specious arguments about how competitive products are environmental disasters.
And finally, let's just look at the principle at work here. Behind this "classy" front of Mr. Garth Lockwood, the cork industry is engaging in what is essentially the most un-classy kind of marketing. The kind where your main efforts involve the denigration of your competitor. That's the real faux pas.
I used to have only one thing against cork -- its failure rate. But the cork industry has been working on that, and apparently it's getting better. Good for them. But every ad like this helps me celebrate a little bit more every time I twist off a screwcap or unplug a glass stopper.
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