Innovations in the wine trade and the modern Luddite movement
Decanter.com’s poll this month asks whether we would buy sparkling wines sealed with a screwcap rather than a cork, following the news that Australia’s Taylors winery has released their first sparkler with a shiny Stelvin closure. Undoubtedly this will cause even more of a divide than the last time round when screwcaps first became the norm in the New World. In addition to the whole ceremonial aspect of uncorking the wine, there is the whole celebratory pop of fizzy wine to consider – traditional folks who did not welcome the Stelvin on still wines will be none too impressed.
The whole debate bores me now, so I’m not going to go into it. But I was talking about it with a friend earlier who was surprised to learn that I wouldn’t be phased by buying a sparkling wine that didn’t have a cork. I think her exact words were along the lines of ‘aren’t you Mrs Traditional Old World, who hates and fears change and wants everything to remain exactly the same forever?’ I tried to disagree but actually she was completely correct, even my own husband compares me to Karl Pilkington on a regular basis (“If he’s an idiot abroad, then that makes you just an idiot” is what he said when I admitted I almost always agree with Karl’s insightful comments on his travels). He’s been trying to teach me about the virtues of an iPhone for some months now (My husband, not Karl Pilkington, obviously) and I just don’t care, why can’t a phone just be a flipping phone and not an entertainment centre? I can’t even work the Sky Plus properly. Evidently it runs in the family as I was listening to my parents have a similar discussion about the Kindle at the weekend. Dad wants to buy one for mum for her holiday as she always ends up shoving about five large paperbacks into a heavy suitcase and having to leave them behind. Her response made perfect sense to me – she likes turning the pages and didn’t see why she should have to press a button instead. How can you argue with that?
“But you said you wouldn’t drink wine from a carton” said my husband… he’s right, “but that’s more about personal preference, just because it’s cheap and better for the environment doesn’t mean it’s any good”, I protested, and he muttered “Luddite” under his breath. I wasn’t too sure what ‘Luddite’ meant so I just mumbled something unintelligible and stormed upstairs to switch on my PC to look on Wikipedia. It crossed my mind briefly that if I had an iPhone I could have looked up the meaning there and then and made a clever retort. Instead, I waited a full 10 minutes for my PC to start thanks to something a friend told me to install to make it run quicker, which has brilliantly made it even slower than it was before.
“The Luddites were a social movement of 19th-century English textile artisans who protested—often by destroying mechanized looms—against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution” – [Wikipedia]
What? This doesn’t sound like me at all. I’m hardly a textile artisan, I still don’t even know how to work my sewing machine. I scrolled down the page.
“In modern usage, “Luddite” is a term describing those opposed to industrialisation, automation, computerisation or new technologies in general.”
Fair enough, I suppose. Although I don’t think I would take it as far as destoying mechanised looms or indeed any looms – I’m more of a passive Luddite if anything.
So how can it be that someone who lives in fear of a new piece of software being installed at work and who would run a half marathon before she would step on the scary power plate at the gym can make peace so easily with sparkling wine under screwcap?
Same reason as ever – I flipping hate corked wine. I hate tasting it, I hate having to deal with it, I hate that moment when you try to convince yourself it isn’t corked when you know it is, I hate that I’ve had a corked bottle in my kitchen for over a week that I still have to take back to the shop, I hate the moment of fear when you open a great wine that you’ve been saving, I hate my own terrible luck with corked wines which I reckon is more like 1 in 7, not 1 in 12 like experts always estimate. I hate that often it will go undetected among the others who are drinking it and that they will just think I have brought a crap wine to their party, I hate having to run round to the bleeding Co Op for wine that will not be a patch on the stupid bottle I got from my wine merchant had it not been corked. So my fear of technology stops short of not welcoming the screwcap – in fact looking at the torrent of rage I have just unleashed, I think I would actually like to personally thank the screwcap for saving me from myself and the corked wine rage that would have otherwise consumed me. And that is that.