CorkScrewed!

People often talk about the glamor of travel, going from city to city, seeing new sites and being on the road all seem to be the key associations with the notion that leads girls to swoon when you say you have a ‘traveling job. Absent from the minds of these swooning romantics is the grim reality that has become the airport. I love getting on airplanes, its one of the most exciting things to me… but the airports! No matter how many times you fly you still get the third degree from the high-class individuals who spend their days behind X-Ray machines ordering strangers to practically strip into their underwear, wanding down bodies, ordering laptops out of cases and testing my bag and its associated fibers for explosive material. I feel that if there is such a thing as criminal profiling, can’t there be a counter measure of innocence profiling?

Five years ago I was with my friend Danny at the Fauzi Azar Inn in Nazareth on the 11th of September, away from our Israeli Kibbutz, and when I saw the news of the twin towers on CNN I had no idea that it would be the perpetual cause of me having to wait in long queues all over the USA, standing in my socks and being told I would have to also remove my belt and watch.

Generally if one is traveling on business it’s easier not to check baggage to expedite the whole process of disembarking and getting to wherever you’re going. What this has to do with wine you may ask is a very good question, and in actual fact it has to do with a lot of debate in the wine industry that I will touch on shortly. You see, we wine people carry a key item on us at all times and being caught without it is not an option… the corkscrew.

Since I have been in the United States I have been on countless flights and on every one I have been forced to part with my corkscrew, as it would seem that the inch-long foil cutter is a genuine threat to the air-marshal armed with a pistol on every flight. I know that I don’t suffer alone, on occasion I’ve even seen The Australian having to surrender our industry’s prized tool and she’s glanced up in my direction with a knowing look of you’re going to lose yours too.

Once on the Wines of South Africa tour in San Francisco, when all the exhibitors flew together we ended up at the convention center and all of us had had ours confiscated, resulting in hundreds of unopened wines. This is an item that you would think would be plentiful in California, but it would seem that every other store has worked on that assumption and thus everyone fails in stocking them. As a result, twenty screw-loose exhibitors were forced to purchase ostentatious stainless steel designer made Williams Sonoma corkscrews for $25 a piece and as you may have already guessed it, every single one was again routinely removed on that night’s flight to Los Angeles.

You should think that we would all learn, but to put it simply, when I’m walking down the street with a bottle opener in my back pocket, I can’t say that I feel threatening, it just kind of slips one’s mind. I dream of the room in every airport where buckets and buckets of nail scissors and corkscrews are kept, what is the government doing with them all? Where do they go? What can a company do with thousands of corkscrews and no wine? Perhaps this is the real cause of confiscating liquids on airplanes, because with all the openers, the staff finally needed something to open!

Of course, many people have found themselves proverbially screwed by being caught without an unscrewing device that should accompany the bottle of wine they so smugly packed in the picnic basket. It’s a perfectly schoolboy error to take a 5 starwoman on a wine and cheese picnic with the intention of impressing her only to realize that you have no efficient means of removing the cork enclosure. Ever tried to open wine without a corkscrew, its really screwed up and bound to get messy. One guy I know speared through his hand trying using a Leatherman as a chisel and his hand as the mallet, all that for a cheap bottle of merlot! To my mind an unsuccessful date with a lot of lost blood and no wine at the end of it doesn’t really seem to be worth all the fuss.

Cheap merlot and speared palms aside, even if my friend had had a corkscrew the wine may have very well been corked. It’s all very well to send it back in a restaurant, but when you’re out watching the sun set its just frustrating. As a salesman I’ve had tradeshows almost ruined by corked bottles of wine and one has to wonder, if people don’t put up with milk (a living, breathing organic product) being sour, why is it that people in wine continue to debate the more sophisticated system that is screwcap? Some may argue that a lot of the romance is lost by not using cork. I argue back that a lot of the romance of gun battle has been lost since we stopped using raw gun powder and stuffing lead shots into the top of muskets with sticks. There’s nothing romantic about a decomposing cork or TCA no matter which way you spin it. The real magic, real cork or no, is in the bottle.

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Posted in Stories, Travel | 2 Comments »

  • Gene

    The restaurant experience of having our wine uncorked at the table is nice, yet we don’t feel slighted for having our sexy imported bottled water being served from a screw cap container.

    The wine industry uses the cork as a ‘mystique’ marketing tool. It’ll take a while for them to re-educate us wine lovers about what is the real indicator of the wine quality inside. Most of us have marginal storage conditions for cork-sealed bottles of wine. The temperature ups-and-downs of the wine racks in our houses and apartments (even in our wine closets) are, in my opinion, better suited to screw caps to maintain the quality of our ‘stored’ wines.

    When will we see industry-sponsored experiments on bottled wine aging under various representative storage conditions to put this debate to rest?

  • Gene

    The restaurant experience of having our wine uncorked at the table is nice, yet we don’t feel slighted for having our sexy imported bottled water being served from a screw cap container.

    The wine industry uses the cork as a ‘mystique’ marketing tool. It’ll take a while for them to re-educate us wine lovers about what is the real indicator of the wine quality inside. Most of us have marginal storage conditions for cork-sealed bottles of wine. The temperature ups-and-downs of the wine racks in our houses and apartments (even in our wine closets) are, in my opinion, better suited to screw caps to maintain the quality of our ‘stored’ wines.

    When will we see industry-sponsored experiments on bottled wine aging under various representative storage conditions to put this debate to rest?

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