business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

“These are my principles and if you don’t like them…I have others!” - Groucho Marx

As a rule, I tend not to hate things. But life’s little ironies just keep jumping up and biting me above the ankles.

For instance, earlier this summer I wrote about my dislike of Bluetooth phones and suggested that all users wear a feather in their hair to signify that they aren’t mumbling insanely to themselves. Sure enough, I got a new cell phone that came with a free Bluetooth headset. My college-aged daughter wasted no time supplying a feather. Darn ironies.

Then there was the argument Kevin launched earlier this year about corks vs. screw tops on bottles of wine. Now as many of you might imagine, working with Kevin (though we are 250 miles apart) is an endless array of very important discussions. Please, please, please don’t get us started on dental care or even his passion for supermarkets expelling all products bearing the name of any restaurant.

The cork vs. screw top seemed a slam-dunk to me. After all, what was the big deal other than a nostalgic feeling for one technology being replaced by another? Kevin, it seemed to me, was all wet.

But to address the argument fairly, I visited a vineyard located just outside of Sydney, Australia, the wonderful country that seems to be spearheading the wine cork vs. screw top battle. Peter Auld, the winemaker and owner of Tizzana Vineyards, was more than happy to weigh in on the topic.

The screw tops, which he uses on about half his products, are all about economics, nothing else. In fact, Peter explained why cork is actually superior. A screw top, he said, makes a very good seal on the bottle, but the seal is complete in one specific place. Any flaw in that one location and the seal fails to prevent air from entering the bottle and ruining the wine. In contrast, a cork creates a much longer seal, in essence creating redundant safeguards against leaks.

(One short interlude here: Peter’s vineyard in Ebenezer, New South Wales, produces a number of wonderful wines. A real surprise to me was his Old Liqueur Sweet Wine for desserts. I’m not a big wine connoisseur and I usually have no taste for sweet after-dinner wines, but this was fabulous. His Shiraz and a local blend, Tomasso, were also especially good.)

Now this is just one winemaker’s opinion and before we get notes from the Screw Top Association of America, let me just take care of this issue. Kevin, it seems, is right and the issue isn’t trivial.

Value is such a nuanced concept these days and the key is creating a perception of distinction in the eyes of the shopper. If Peter feels cork is better for his products, he should find a way of educating his shoppers and explaining why he needs to charge an extra few cents to uphold his quality.

That’s an argument Kevin would likely make and I’d agree. There. I said it.

But it won’t last. Last week, Kevin actually dissed Tom Seaver, who is only the greatest ex-Mets player ever. Best as I know, Seaver was never accused of using performance enhancing drugs, never engaged in dog fights and never bet on games. All he did was pitch hard and win. The day the Mets traded him remains one of the darkest days in sports history for me. And Kevin wishes to banish him forever because his brilliance on the field hasn’t translated to the broadcast booth. Bring on the wine!
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