Boomers sang “times they are a’ changin’” at same time they experimented with pulling corks out of wine bottles.
Today, wine makers hope millennials—boomer’s babies and grandbabies—sing the same Dylan tune, but they want wine drinkers to do so while experimenting with screwtop-sealed bottles and wine in plastic bags nestled inside cardboard boxes.
Millennials never knew times when screwtops only came on bottles swigged by bums living under highways and boxed wine was the swill caterers scammed you with at weddings.
Big Wine embraces screwtops and plastic bags because they are easier and cheaper to manufacture and deliver higher profit margins.
Neophyte oenophiles and greedy wine factories, however, are not the whole story. Opened boxed wine stays fresh for weeks, a very big plus. Research also shows, however, unopened plastic-bag wines spoil faster than glass-bottled wines when exposed to heat, and box economics don’t work as well in standard 750 ml and 375 ml bottle sizes as they do in 3-liter and larger offerings. Not game changers, but clear reasons glass isn’t going away.
Screwtops are another story. Every year another screwtop-sealed vintage ages without disappointment, and the cork closure epoch moves toward denouement—at least to the time when top twisting pulls alongside cork pulling.
That noted, don’t schedule charity drives for Portuguese foresters just yet. Given hallowed traditions and huge investments in cork-bottling equipment, bark will co-exist with metal for the lifetimes of both boomers and millennials.
By the way, Big Wine wants us to call screwtops “Stelvin caps” because they think it sounds classier. As a millennial would say: “whatever.”
• Bonterra Chardonnay Mendocino County 2011. Buttery, smooth, mouth-pleasing; apple, citrus, melon; bright, clean, tart, pure, fun; organic; screwtop seal. $14
• Hardys Shiraz SE Australia. Plum, berry, full-rich fruit; restrained oak, soft tannin; generic Aussie shiraz in 3-liter box; nice value. $18
• Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. Simple, soft; black fruits; medium tannin, noticeable acidity; nothing to celebrate, but acceptable and safe. $20
Last round: Boxed wine is not supermarket plonk; it is a fruit-juice box for grownups.