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It’s not crazy to wonder whether future generations of wine drinkers will know the unique pleasure of having a cylindrical piece of tree bark routinely inserted into containers of their favorite beverage. Indeed, will the term “uncorked” someday bear only a nostalgic, symbolic meaning?

The problem is not supply, of course; it’s demand. But the cork industry’s powers that be are not giving up without a fight. Reacting from news of a second straight year of double-digit growth for wines featuring alternative closures, cork’s most powerful leaders held a clandestine meeting in early 2007, aiming to regain market share and restore cork’s image among American wine drinkers.

The gathering took place in a chamber, deep in a cave carved into a cliff of the Douro River Valley. Thirteen men wearing brownish-tan hooded robes sat in large, cushioned chairs around a table laden with cheeses, nuts, chocolates and 13 bottles of Port dating back to 1892. Despite the heady array of food and drink, the candlelit chamber—its walls lined with thousands of wine corks—still smelled faintly like wet cardboard.

For hours the monklike figures argued and plotted. By the time the last drop of Port had been poured, they had developed “The Cork Manifesto,” an exclusive copy of which was obtained  by The Wine Skewer. Among the plans for action:

  • Open a chain of “Screwtopless” wine bars, across Europe and the U.S., which also happen to be topless.
  • Have a poor fisherman in Lisbon find a cork upon which the image of Jesus is clearly seen; as news spreads, people will come from all over the world to Portugal to taste this magical elixir.
  • Plant a news story that all malodorous wines can be somehow traced back to French soil; moving forward, such wines should be referred to as corqué.
  • Publish a sequel to the classic children’s book The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, about a bull who wants no part of bullfights in Madrid. In Ferdinand II: Cultural Learnings to Benefit Glorious Nation of Portugal, the nonviolent bovine hero ambles westward across Spain, searching for the perfect place to sit “just quietly” and smell the flowers; he finds it in Portugal, under a tree whose limbs are laden with perfectly shaped wine corks, and proceeds to became a “cow magnet” and sire dozens of calves.
  • Encourage makers of increasingly popular 3-liter “bag-in-box” wines to use cork in the production of the actual boxes, providing extra durability and insulation.

In other news, a lifelong wine aficionado’s collection of 3,000-plus corks sold recently on eBay for $57.

 

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