About the time that I graduated from college, Ripple and other fortified wines became very popular because (1) they were cheap and (2) they had a high alcohol content. Apart from the fact that they weren’t very good wines, the other common thread in this style of wine was that they were sealed with screw on caps.
Screw on wine caps were developed in the late 1960’s, and were first used commercially in 1972 by the Swiss winery Hammel. They were developed as a solution to “cork taint”, which had become an increasingly large problem for some Swiss wine producers, and is still a problem today. In a 2005 test of 2800 bottles of wine in Napa, California, 7% were found to be tainted.
Cork was first used as a wine stopper by the Egyptians thousands of years ago, but it wasn’t until the 1600’s that its use as a wine stopper became widespread. A French monk named Dom Perignon was most responsible for the surge in popularity. He is also the first person to replace the wooden stoppers used in sparkling wine with cork.
Cork stoppers first arrived in 1700 in Portugal. Although the world’s first wine stopper factory opened in Spain in 1750, Portugal remains the world’s leading producer of cork.
I joined the wine club at Winestyles of Evanston in the spring of this year. When I got my first two bottles of the “wine of the month” home, I discovered that BOTH of them were sealed with screw on caps. Since my previous exposure to screw on caps on wine bottles was from my exposure to Ripple 40 years ago, I was initially disappointed. However, Maggie and Dean were able to enlighten and educate me on the use of “Stelvin enclosures”, and I am now definitely a fan.
On Friday, September 10, Winestyles is hosting a tasting of wines that are exclusively sealed by screw on caps. I’m planning to attend, and I predict that it should be a well attended event.
If you’ve watched the recent video called “wine not”, you’ll realize the Winestyles does a very good job of minimizing the “mystique” of my favorite juice. Apart from the fact that the consumption of wine has some definite health benefits, it can also improve your “social networking” skills.
Don’t let a lack of knowledge about wine prevent you from attending the tasting next Friday evening. As the saying goes, “ screw it .. It’s only wine”.