You are what you eat & drink

Posts tagged “nuanced aromas

Put a cork in it!

Real corks, made from cork

Real corks, made from cork

I am neither a sommelier, nor  by any means an expert, but I do drink wine.

I am a traditionalist and I like corks.

Real corks, not synthetic corks, not the abominable screw cap, nor the Lego-looking plastic plug you get in fizzy wine, real corks!

If I see a bottle has a screw cap, I immediately overlook it without giving it further consideration; even if it is the type of wine I am looking for, I ignore it.

I also dearly wish that wine labels were required to note whether the cork is of the synthetic variety, then it too would be ignored. I have been known to curse aloud when opening a bottle of wine and finding a synthetic stopper, not to mention further cursing when trying to remove the crappy thing from the corkscrew; they just do not want to unscrew.

Now, I find there is another innovation on the wine scene.

Why the snobbery over corks?

A new wine cork that screws into the bottle is being unveiled. But why is there still so much snobbery in the battle between traditional cork and screw-top?

The sound is unmistakeable.

A scientist might talk about the explosive pop of a wine cork in terms of pressure or elasticity.

But for wine lovers, the distinctive creak and pop means something good is happening. It triggers associations – social intimacy, relaxation, nuanced aromas, celebration – that go far beyond just a slug of alcohol.

The unveiling this week of a new style of cork raises the question of why the traditional kind continues to dominate much of the wine world.

The Helix is opened with just a twist of the hand. No corkscrew is necessary as the top of the bottle has a thread inside.

The glass bottle and cork combination for wine is thought to have started in the 17th Century. But newer materials exist today that some argue are better suited for sealing a bottle than cork.

Screw caps and plastic corks have been embraced by producers fed up with wine becoming “corked” – the unpleasant musty taste, likened to wet dog, which is caused by tainted cork.

Influential US wine critic Robert Parker reckons that during the mid 1990s 7-10% of the wine he tasted was corked. In 2004 he predicted that by 2015 screw caps would dominate the wine industry.

The screw cap – generic name “Stelvin” after its biggest brand – advanced spectacularly in “New World” wine nations. By 2011, 90% of New Zealand wine was sealed this way.

But in Europe and the US the cork remains king.

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Having read that New Zealand wine is 90% screw capped, they’ve just screwed their sales to one more customer. I am a NZer, I am an ex-pat, I would love to have wine from my own country to share with my company, but they’ve just put paid to any hope of that. Even my patriotism will not supersede my abhorrence of screw caps.