Monday, April 04, 2005

About nine or ten years ago Michelle and I took a vacation and ended up for a day or so in Napa Valley, California. Until that time, I wasn't much of a wine drinker. But after a couple of stops in at the wineries, we began to explore the world of wine. We're still complete novices, but we have developed in our tastes and can appreciate some well made wine. It's been a lot of fun, but unfortunately, the more refined we become in our tastes, the more expensive this hobby becomes - partly because we drink it more frequently, and partly because we no longer like the cheaper wines that used to satisfy us just fine.

A funny thing has happened in the wine industry since we began our enjoyment of it. Like just about every other industry I can think of, wine production has been significantly altered by technological advancement. One thing in particular that has begun to shift is in the sealing of wine bottles. It used to be that all decent wine was sealed with a cork. Duh. Only the cheap stuff that tasted like kerosene was sealed with a screw cap. We used to joke about the bums on the street corner with their cheap screw capped wine bottles. Well, as it turns out, the good 'ol screw cap has come upon a time of redemption.

Indeed, it is the cork that has become the target of attack for many enophiles. With corked wine bottles, there is always some degree to which a few bottles are spoiled, or "corked", because an air-tight seal has not been created. This causes wine that tastes more like vinegar. As you can imagine, this doesn't set well with people who have just paid good money for good wine. Especially if it is an expensive and/or old wine that may have been anticipated for years.

Enter the screw cap. Consistently good, air tight seal. And now some higher end wine makers have made the "bold" move to produce screw capped wines. Fewer and fewer people are arguing in favor of the superiority of corks when it comes to preserving the intended flavors of the wine. So why is it bold to make the change? And why are the vast majority of wines sold still sealed with cork?

Resistance to change.

Wine makers know that a whole culture has developed around wine corks. If you go to Brookstone you'll find that some of the hottest gifts they sell are wine opening kits, in other words, fancy corkscrews. If you go out to dinner at a nice restaurant and order a bottle of wine, you'll find that there is a whole etiquette around the ordering, presentation, inspection, opening, and tasting of the wine. I've watched rookie waiters with beads of sweat on their foreheads hoping to open the bottles well without breaking the corks.

With screw caps, everything changes . . . everything except for the wine, that is (oh yeah, that is the important part). I must admit, as someone who enjoys the experience of wine, the screw cap phenomenon does take a little getting used to. A couple of weeks ago, Michelle and I had dinner at an Italian restaurant, and ordered a bottle of wine. When the waiter came back and presented it for inspection, everything looked fine, and so he unwrapped the foil at the top of the bottle, and with a turn of the wrist unscrewed the cap. I joked with him that he had very good technique, but I could tell that even he felt a little awkward about it.

And so it has come to be, that what we used to joke about as a mark of inferiority has now become a mark of distinction. Soon enough the culture will change, and we'll begin to notice that our corkscrews are gathering dust. Waiters in fining dining establishments will have some snappy new way of cranking the caps.

But again, the important thing - the thing driving the change is that what's under the caps will be more consistently good than it is now. People will realize that their cultural hang-ups about the format on the outside are just that. Wine snobs will still be wine snobs.

So in wine terms, is the emerging church thing simply a change in format - one that improves the consistency, but doesn't fundamentally alter what's inside? Just something I was thinking about.

By the way, I haven't seen Sideways . . . but I do like Pinot Noir. Also, our new home is exactly 2.2 miles from Wine Enthusiast's Winery of the Year for 2004. And across the street from that is another good winery. And next door to that is a fine place for some good beer.

posted by Steve at 1:13 PM
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I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at When this blog was my active online home, I lived in Seattle. Now I live in London, UK. I follow Jesus (poorly most of the time), worship simply, read a lot, watch culture, go to school, listen to music, write, enjoy art, and drink a lot of coffee.
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seattle spots

victrola coffee
zoka coffee
university of washington
church of the apostles
quest church
sanctuary church
shoreline vineyard

sites i visit

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nt wright

a few of the blogs in the feedreader

jason evans
joe boyd
kevin rains
alan creech
chris marshall
bill bean
eugene cho
jordon cooper
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generation me
jesus and the restoration of israel
god's continent
globalizing theology
gustavo gutierrez: essential writings
jesus and the eyewitnesses
garlands of grace
twenty poems to nourish your soul
the black swan
dancing in the streets
made to stick
signs in contemporary culture
hit the bullseye
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readings in christian ethics
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the kite runner
principles of conduct
velvet elvis
the irresistable revolution
they like jesus, but not the church
the great omission
charisma: the gift of grace, and how it has been taken from us
the starfish and the spider
a perfect mess
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leaving church
journeying in faith
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transforming mission
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
personal knowledge

states i've spent time: 2007

british columbia
oh yeah, denmark, too

i wrote it

managing conflict in the 'new world'
music review: over the rhine
film review: bonhoeffer
music review: fighting jacks
film review: the passion of the christ
how reality tv changes lives
the best tv article you've ever read
corks & caps: a wine lover's story of change
america's idols
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic

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