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New York Wine Tasting: Corks, Screw Tops, and Tetra Paks

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 5/1/2005 - www.Littleviews.com ]

by Lisa Grossman

Up close to a wine cork>>  Looking back, it's frightening to remember when I reached the legal drinking age. My wine of choice was either white zinfandel (yikes!) or worse, jug wine with a twist off cap.

Naturally, one of my oldest friends often visits my wine shop just to tease me about the days when I would purchase box wine (wine contained in a plastic bag, protected by a cardboard box) as a way to treat the gang.

OK, that was 20 years ago and I would like to think that "hey, I've come a long way, baby," but it's starting to feel as though I am right back where I started. Screw tops and Tetra Paks are now the rage.

Surprisingly, corks may be on the road to extinction. Hearing and feeling the joy that the "pop" brings when opening a bottle of wine, of course, will never completely go out of style and then, there are some wines that must be cork-sealed to allow for aging. But even at that, there's no doubt that the industry is replacing cork with screw tops.

So why? Well, statistics show that one out of every 15-20 bottles may be contaminated with bacteria, a taint often referred to as "corked," or slightly "corked" (the term "corked" is a polite way of saying "stinky").

A corked bottle may be very mild and virtually undetectable, or it can render the wine completely undrinkable. Sniffing the cork before consuming wine, of course, is the fastest way to detect a problem. The bad news here is that wine drinkers often assume that a mildly corked wine is simply lousy wine and refuse to purchase it again, thinking that one bottle speaks for the lot.

The good news, however, is that a screw top guarantees freshness and quality, although without that pleasant pop. Your chance of drinking a corked or slightly corked wine from a screw-topped bottle, however, is zero. And, as a bonus, if you don't finish the whole bottle, just re-screw it. Your wine lasts longer when firmly sealed, something that's difficult to do when you press an expanded, cracked cork back into a slim bottle neck.

Three Thieves’ Bandit wine in Tetra Brik aseptic packagingTetra Pak
Late one Friday afternoon last summer while receiving a weekly wine delivery at Bacchus Wine Made Simple, my Lincoln Center-area New York wine shop, I first laid eyes on Three Thieves' Bandit, an Italian wine.

Bandit Bianco is a white wine packaged in a yellow, cardboard Tetra Pak. I thought to myself, "you have got to be kidding."

At any rate, I grabbed a couple of the paks and was off to the beach with Bandit's in my weekend bag. Well, Bandit and I were the hit of the weekend! First of all, the packaging was absolutely ideal to toss in a cooler and take to the beach. Not only was the wine an exceptional value, no corkscrew was needed, it was lightweight, easy to open, and easy to reseal. And it gets even better! The Tetra Pak (more properly known as the "Tetra Brik Aseptic Package," which is hard to remember . . . ) is a one-liter size (1000ml), whereas a standard wine bottle is only 750ml. More wine for your money; more bang from the Bandit!

You'll be surprised to learn that In Italy, wines purchased in Tetra Paks now equal the number of wines purchased in traditional glass bottles.

Charles Bieler, proprietor of Three Thieves, the company that produces the Bandit, explains: "It's pretty simple; the Tetra Pak allows us to bring better quality wine to the consumer at a reduced cost. By using Tetra Paks we eliminate from the production cost the glass bottle, the cork, the foil and labels. In addition, the cost of shipping the wine to local distributors and retail shops is reduced, as the weight of twelve one-liter Tetra Paks is substantially less than that of twelve 750ml glass bottles."

The times, they are a changing. Perhaps difficult to swallow for cork and glass bottle aficionados, but screwtops and Tetra Paks are the wave of the future, which is good news for all of us. Hey, give it a break! It's not like you're getting screwed.

Questions or comments?
Lisa Grossman
Or . . .
Littleviews' Publisher, Karen Little

Baccus Wines
NEW YORK, NY 10023
212 875-1200

Article by Lisa Grossman, owner of Bacchus Wines in New York City. Photos by Studio Two. First published on 5/1/2005. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.

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