I hadn’t had Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc in about a year until Friday night, when I picked up a bottle to go with some spaghetti carbonara I was assembling. I gave a quick jerk of my wrist to unscrew the cap and, suddenly, was presented with a second barrier that somewhat resembled the little plastic plug on a carton of orange juice. I was dismayed (I regularly fail at peeling those things), but gave a half-hearted push with my thumb just in case. The little plastic cover slipped off with ease and, to my astonishment, there was a “pop” that sounded exactly like a cork being pulled from a bottle! Now THAT is brilliant.
I’ve written about the cork-versus-screwcap debate before, and anyone who has discussed it with me can tell pretty readily that I’m a big believer in converting over to Stelvin (the technical name for screwcap) across the board. In my experience, the biggest barrier to people accepting a wine with a screwcap is an ideological one… if you’re spending money for a nice bottle, you want to have the full wine experience and that means struggling to pull out the cork, or having the sommelier leave the cork next to your wine glass for you to not smell. For screwcaps to become more accepted they must compensate for this lack of traditional appeal because, as I suddenly realized on Friday, there’s a subconscious element at work here.
When I heard the crackle of shearing plastic as I unscrewed the bottle of wine, I was just unscrewing a bottle of wine. When I heard the “cork pop”, I was about to drink a glass of wine. The sound made an impression on me, it reminded me of uncorking bottles at family gatherings and table-service classes at wine school. They say smell is tied closest to memory but I think that anytime you sense something unexpected and reminiscent of the past, your mind reacts by associating it with memories. I was still just cooking dinner and having a glass of wine but my state of mind definitely changed.
In other words, the winemakers and some brilliant marketing psychologist are waging psychological warfare on the cork, and I am fascinated by the approach – I can’t wait to see how it works!