Monday, July 23, 2007

No More Putting a Cork In It

Is there anything to match the sound of a cork coming loose from a great bottle of wine? Well, there better be. Corks as sealers for wine bottles are on their way into history. Even though consumers resist, the shift to screw caps on wine bottles is building. While still limited in America where only around 5 percent of wineries use screw caps, in Australia, 40 percent of all wine has screw caps and in New Zealand, 80 percent. The traditional wine growing regions will hold out for as long as they can, but the writing is definitely on the cork.

From the wine industry’s point of view screw caps make sense. Bad corks spoil between 2 to 15 percent of all the bottles they seal and that’s big money when you spread it across a $130-$180 billion dollar global industry. Screw caps don’t actually save money themselves. The savings come from protecting the quality of the wine. Now, while this all makes good sense for the wine industry, I believe we wine drinkers of the world should unite and demand a better sensual experience to make up for what we are losing. They can start with the texture of the screw top, the sounds it could make as it is unscrewed, a visual surprise inside the top, maybe such wonderfully designed caps that they become collectible objects of desire – like champagne corks. I’m assuming that no one is going to try to put screw caps on the great champagnes. I may be a champion of change, but that’s going too far!


Susan956 said...

The writing is definitely on the cork.
LOL I rolled about laughing.

I offered a Lovemark recently for Giesen. Superb, NZ, Marlborough region Sauvignon Blanc.

The other wine I enjoy from the same area (different company) is Secret Stone, but Giesen is my favourite.

Something under the caps? I am amused because my connection to that is soft drink style of promos.

However, that said, I think there is room for a designer style cap with an image of the makers vineyard, a crest, a hologram or similar.

I am lousy at removing corks - no artistry at all so have loved the screw tops. And half the corks being used were not cork at all in the end but synthetics. If the screw top had say the smallest bell on it that struck a note as it was unscrewed - could that provide an aural overture? It would not emulate the cork pop because that would be perhaps disrespectful to the original but it would give it's own sound. OR, however the screw cap is made, as you undo, the metal would give a 'ring' of sorts.

Hmm.. I'd perhaps just prefer the image on the cap and leave them to put their investment money into better wines than 'tricks' :)

And speaking of new approaches to product art, I must admit now I've seen this idea from author/academic Howard Rheingold I am VERY surprised no manufacturer has arrived at this. Howard's painted shoes:

Piotr Jakubowski said...

I'm sure wine connoiseurs are appalled by this lingering change. At the end of the day, it seems that business is business, and that the wine producers will begin to turn to profit maximization. Alas, that is business. I'm sure there still will be a handful of stubborn people resisting change, and I believe that because of their persistence, the value of their wine might actually increase.

It's interesting to see similar things happen with other goods as well. Film photography is being slowly overtaken by digital, and companies have already started to discontinue paper and film. Although the hardcore consumers/connoiseurs have been adamant to change, soon enough it will be their time.

As for the collective screw tops, I think it would be a great way to develop innovation by re-inventing something functional and seemingly boring. And the possibilities are endless!

Susan956 said...

This comment overlaps with the previous Cartier topic. I was interested to see that Choice (consumer group/magazine) conducted a beer tasting 'test' - a blind test - using lay people and individuals skilled at testing beers. The outcome? Almost no difference between what the two groups said. Obviously this interested me given my post re Cartier and treating certain individuals as *the* authorities on topics that are common to us all.

My understanding is that Cork as traditionally used and made (from the Cork tree) in Spain cannot keep up with the demand within wine consumption. The Cork making is not just labor intensive but a tree must recover for a period of years before the Cork can again be harvested and so on.

Once synthetics were used and accepted I believe this paved the way for the screw cap. I suspect the traditional cork-within-wine will itself become a market niche product, more expensive and highly collectable.

Whilst I supported the notion of art screw caps, one does muse as to whether every little thing in life must have a brand, sign, emblem on it. I would, again as said, welcome a holographic silver fern on a wine cap and so on but I do question the 'superficial vs inherent worth' dialectic.