Cork trees are closely related to bananas. True story.
Putting a cork in it has a long and storied history: corks provided the ideal closure for bottles and barrels for twenty centuries, and the argument still exists that there is nothing better than a chunk of tree bark for keeping quality wine in good condition.
However, in the early 20th century cork manufacturers in Portugal were nationalised, with the government handing over complex industrial and distribution systems to their cronies and useless brothers-in-law. Only a few companies managed to keep continuity, to keep producing quality corks, but they were overwhelmed the bumblers who produced volumes of second-rate TCA ('corked-aroma') closures for years.
It's the first weekend of June, and that means it's the annual LD Carlson conference. LD is Winexpert's distributor in the USA and the largest consumer beer and winemaking supplier in the world. Winexpert's relationship with them goes back over two decades, when Carlson's Ron Hartman took on the original Brew King wine kits--a bit of a visionary step at the time, but one that's been great for both of us.
The very first conference was 14 years ago, and it was a tiny affair in Akron Ohio with a few dozen retailers. Small, but effective: the first time I spoke at the conference I did a Q&A that lasted what seemed like days--it was well over four hours, as the folks attending got hooked on the idea that there was a guy who not only could answer their questions about wine kits, but also was obligated by his job description to give those answers.
We've all some a long way since then. The recent conferences have been held in Cuyahoga Falls, in a pretty lovely venue at the Sheraton there. The eponymous river is very famous locally, for an amazing phenomenon. It used to be so polluted that it actually caught fire--thirteen times!
I've been thinking about the wine kit business (I know I don't mention this very often, but since it keeps me in cheese sandwiches and pays the kitty-treats bill, I do think about it quite a lot). This is always a dangerous proposition, but I have been coming across the same question from a bunch of different sources, and in most places that I visit where we distribute our consumer winemaking products: 'How do I get new customers interested in my wine/wine business?'
Sure, not a new question, but it's getting more obvious as times goes by. While wine sales are generally increasing across the category, not every consumer winemaking store is growing at the same rate as the commercial side, and it's more significant when you compare the wine numbers to those of beer. To be sure, traditional macro-brew beers (those made by one of the Big Four, who collectively control 50% of all beer on earth) are in the swamp, declining continuously for the last decade, but Craft beer (brewed by independents for reasons in other than quarterly corporate profit), is exploding, continues to explode:for all intents and purposes appears to be a big happy explosion as a default state. Wine people can't help but think, 'Where's my piece of that delicious alcohol-pie?'
I'm a huge fan of synthetic corks. While I'm also down with natural corks, the price-point on them for equivalent quality is so high that synthetics beat the heck out of them for most purposes--they never chip, rot, leak, split or taint, go in easy, come out easy and are extremely uniform in size and appearance. Nomacorc is my product of choice, as they have excellent quality control and great research on their products.
But have you ever wondered how synthetic corks are made? Vectored from the wonderful site, Wine Folly, here is a short video of the process:
Oh my, this is some kind of record. I'm going to talk about Winexpert products for the third time this year. Wow, you'd swear they paid me or something.
But I'd talk about our Limited Edition wines even if they weren't my baby: top quality grapes from extremely cool regions and viticultural areas, varietals and styles that can be unfamiliar (at first!) and the opportunity to make a vintage wine to age and enjoy in the coming years--what's not to love? This year was totally cool because it was the first time we included a grapeskin pack in one of our LE 2012 wine kits.
This is without a doubt the most exciting announcement I’ve ever made in the 13 years I’ve been with Winexpert—and it’s something that’s going to change everything about the Consumer-Made wine industry, from coast to coast!
Let me explain: in Canada there are two ways to make your own wine. The first is obvious: you buy a wine kit and a few pieces of necessary equipment and in the comfort of your own home you go through the process of making up the batch, pitching the yeast, transferring the resulting wine, clearing and stabilising it, and finally bottling it so it can age until it’s ready to drink.