Screwy Scruton – Put a Cork In It
Roger Scruton, that philosopher extraordinaire, thinks that screwcaps on wine “encourages the quick fix, the hasty glug, the purely self-centred grab for a slug of alcohol. It reduces wine to an alcopop and shapes it according to the needs of the drunkard.” In contrast wine with a cork is opened “with a slow and graceful movement while the guests watch in awed silence. The sudden "pop" that then occurs is like a sacramental bell, marking a great division in the scheme of things, between a still life with bottle, and the same still life with wine.”
There has been a lot of debate recently about whether wine should have a screwcap, especially premium wine. The science suggests that screwcaps offer a more uniform method of reducing exposure of wine to oxygen during cellaring. While the problem of reductive characters in some wines with screwcaps is still to be solved there seems little doubt that it is not a problem of the screwcap itself. Corks appear to be more variable in the amount of oxygen that they allow to pass into the wine, and they are also a major cause of 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA) contamination that results in a wine being described as corked.
For Scruton “the risk of corking is essential to the ritual” of opening a bottle of wine. You have got to be kidding me! The idea that a contaminant, that we know how to avoid, should lurk in the background and plague the opening of every wine is faulty thinking of the highest order. But then philosophers are not known for their practicality.
Scruton’s ritual of opening a bottle of wine is as follows. “The bottle is retrieved from some secret place where the gods have kept it guarded; it is brought reverentially to the table, dusted off and uncorked with a slow and graceful movement while the guests watch in awed silence. The sudden "pop" that then occurs is like a sacramental bell, marking a great division in the scheme of things, between a still life with bottle, and the same still life with wine. The wine must then be swirled, sniffed and commented upon, and only when all this is duly accomplished can it be poured with ceremonial priestcraft into the glasses.”
If you replace uncorked with uncapped, and “pop” with “snap” you have a description of the opening of a screwcapped wine. A ritual that, in time, will convert all but the most fanatical and backward thinking of wine drinkers.