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Monday, April 17, 2017

Traditions Die Hard in the Wine Industry

Many industries are tied to traditions, not just wine. Perhaps living near where so much technology innovation takes place it's sometimes difficult to understand why so many of these things persist. Wine making has actually progressed significantly in the past 50 years. The packaging of wine hasn't.

Corks
These bottles stoppers using tree bark have been predominant for a few hundred years. It was the best they had at the time. Despite the flaws they still control the market. Screw caps are better. Period. Some of the resistance comes from restaurants because when you bring in your own bottle they are now charging you a $20 screwage fee. Aptly named.

Foil
This is the little wrap around the neck of the bottle you have to peel back to get to the damn cork. In the old days it was put there to keep bugs from getting in the cork. Now it's more of just a packaging thing and of no actual use.

Overweight bottles
Thick glass is required for sparkling wine bottles because of the pressure inside. Much thinner, lighter weight glass is just fine for still wine. Somebody decided heavy glass meant better wine.  Huh?

Punts
Historically these indentations in the bottom of the bottle were put there by glass blowers. Bottles are machine made now. Not only does the punt have no use, but somebody decided the bigger the punt the better the wine. Maybe it's the same marketing genius who came up with thick glass.

Bottle size
No one is quite sure why 750 ml is the standard size. Maybe related to hand-blown bottles in the old days. Something smaller seems more practical. Maybe beer can size as that would be about two glasses of wine.

Bottles
In the old days we just had glass to seal in the product. Not we have cans and other packaging like the Tetra-Pak that store better (no light gets in) and won't break if you drop it. Genius!

Wine labeling
Labels tell you where the grapes came from, the (very) approximate amount of alcohol in the wine, and that there are sulfites (lots of products without warning labels contain sulfite). It's a natural food preservative. An idea being kicked around now is whether there should be ingredient labeling. It seems that most winery folks are against this. You have to wonder why. Even if they aren't trying to hide anything it gives that impression.