Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Quirky Champagne Corkers

by Frank

The Australians have taken the alternate stopper gone too far! Crown caps on Champagne? The same crown caps that are on your six pack of Bud or Coors on a bottle of Cristal? Has the world gone mad?

No pop, no ceremony, and – worse yet – one more tool you have to carry: a beer bottle opener. Race car drivers will have to search through their uniform pockets uniforms after checkered flag falls at the 24-Hour Le Mans. Perhaps hockey victors will find what they need rattling around in the bottom of the Stanley Cup.

Imagine executives negotiating the final details of the big merger with a beer bottle opener waiting on the high gloss, oak boardroom table – I hope not. And think about opening the customary bottle of Mumm’s to toast your daughter and new son-in-law – just wait a minute, dear, while I pull out my plastic coated, dime store bottle opener.

I attempt to visualize how this scenario will work. White linens, elegant place setting, chilled Riedel flutes, oysters resting on their bed of salt… and opening the Veuve Clicquot with a bottle opener. This picture just does not work for me.

I admit you can do some damage opening a bottle of Champagne or any other sparkling wine. There is a danger of possibly breaking a fingernail or putting out someone’s eye. I’ve seen people crack windows and chip the chandelier. But, there is a natural thrill in correctly opening a bottle of your favourite bubbly, hearing the familiar pop that inevitably means a party or celebration. I suppose you could still sabre a bottle with a crown cap to create some festive aspect, some sense of “event” to go with your bottle of Taittinger.

We can only hope the Champagne houses do not follow this trend from “Down Under.” There are some bottles of wine that should always come with a cork, with some sense of event and social gathering attached to it. I am sure cork producers can carry on doing their research in avoiding cork taint and still leave our Champagne intact. They should be strongly encouraged to stay the course and save us all from this threat to civilization as I know it.

Susan’s Note:

I didn’t actually think this was the best time to engage in a conversation about Stelvin caps on our favourite bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, so I waited until initial horror of this whole Champagne cork situation wore off. As usual, I confess I’m somewhat more concerned with what the contents of my glass taste like than what kind of closing was used.

About an hour later, we opened a bottle of Veuve Clicquot – thankfully, with a cork that gave a delightful pop – Frank shucked us a few oysters, and we cruised around the web looking for more cork info.

There’s plenty out there, but if you really want to get into this whole question – that is of course risking life, limb, and bottle opener – here’s a site we discovered that you can have a lot of fun with. You’ll even get a certificate to become a Certified Cork Expert.


For example, did you know that cork trees produce up to 20 harvests over the course of their lifetime? Or that the average lifespan of a tree is typically between 170 and 200 years? Portugal leads the way in cork production supplying over half of the world’s supply, followed by Spain, Algeria and Italy.

Let us know what you think of this great little resource. And in the meantime, I think I’ll keep one of those cutesy, artsy fartsy bottle openers – probably the one with the fake lava carving of some obscure Hawaiian god. I’d hate to actually have to go out and buy a dime store beer bottle opener. I’ll just keep this item of sacrilege shall we say “well hidden” – at least for now.

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