“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





09 May 2012


Viiva La Revolution At De Borts!
Twisty Aussies Screw Old World
A Safe Sanitary Sensible Fizz Cap

Sparkling wine corks kill about two dozen humans each year.  Bacchus only knows how many pops it takes to hit that score, but the part of France they call Champagne alone produces over 400 million bottles annually.

The idea of a totally unnecessary ethanol drink coming in an explosive container is freaky however you look at it; one which will remove your eye if you look at it head on while you’re trying to get the contents out is even more ludicrous.  I can’t find a figure for the number of eyes lost to the fizz, but big city emergency wards always report an increase in bust orbs on the occasion of Jesus’ birthday, and other times of ritualised paganism.

I knew two rather colourful one-eyed winos who lost peepers to the celebratory pop.  The great Kit Stevens MW - whose desperately moist career selling Deutz Champagne ended only when he fell drunk down the stairs in Church Gate House Sussex and died of a broken neck - had by that sad stage already lost half his vision to a bottle of sparkling orange pop, of all things.  In Hong Kong, of all places.  Betwixt the pop and the drop, Kit sported a rather fetching eye patch occasionally featuring an advertisement for Deutz.  The other veritable Cyclops, last spotted in a Chilean phone box trying to buy Allende’s telephone network for that Ocker crook Alan Bond, was the mighty Mark Babidge of Wynn Winegrowers.  This is off the track, but I once asked David Wynn what he thought his biggest mistake had been.  The brilliant Wynn shot back "Sending Babidge to business school."

Imagine if fizz had not yet been invented, and you were launching it now, like 2012.  In a brittle glass container with about the same pressure inside as the tyres on your car.  You put a plug in the end with a steel cap on it, like an armour-piercing bullet.  Then you wire it down. 

It would be outlawed immediately. 

And if you attempted to sell, as a sort of celebratory joke, the explosion commonly involved in liberating the drink from its container, or promoted a ridiculous gay ritual like you see at the end of one of those car races?

Your product would be regarded as an improvised explosive device disguised as lemonade but laced with ethanol: awkward, clumsy, inefficient, but certainly fitting the anti-personnel category, and subject to the restrictions of the Ottawa Treaty, otherwise known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines.

De Bortoli Wines yesterday released something that looks like sorting all this, once and for all: a new screw cap for fizzy drinks in a custom-designed lightweight bottle.  This first model bottle can handle four of five atmospheres of pressure; the cap has been tested to ten atmospheres.  The developers are already working on a heavier bottle. 

It looks like any screw cap, any ordinary wine bottle.  But as you twist it, there’s a cross between a snappy crack and a pop, accompanied by a satisfying hiss as the wine exhales.  This occurs almost immediately on applying your twist.  Because the cap is merely loosened, it cannot fly free, as the threads of the bottle neck retain it until you wind it another 450 degrees, by which time the gas has escaped, and the whole business is pretty much inert.  Disarmed.  Defused.

Inside the top of the cap there’s a glossy plastic disc, thicker than the one in your ordinary screw cap.  If you’ve left your resealed bottle in the fridge, and go back for another glass, that disc is soft enough to allow a turn of a few degrees before the compressed CO2 fully exhales.  It’s all very satisfactory.

And safe. 

Not to mention the lack of rotten cork.

The Spaniards and Portuguese will have another excuse to leave the filthy bark on their poor old cork oaks while the fizzmakers of France suddenly look like ordnance manufacturers whose extremely expensive product comes pre-spoiled by the germ warfare saboteurs of Portugal and Spain.

And who knows? Stalwart traditionalists who prefer their fizz spoiled by trichloranisole or ordinary cork flavours could be sold this same closure, but fitted with a cork wafer in place of the food grade plastic.  

So they butcher their sensories while the package saves their eyes.

Champagne does itself no favours in packaging.  In this age of occ health and safety, green awareness and carbon footprint and whatnot, I notice that rather than develop a similarly safe and sanitary closure, Piper-Heidsieck is currently flogging bottles coated with rubber moulded to look like red crocodile skin. More bling shit.

Screw Portugal and Spain.  And screw Champagne, too, unless they slim up and get with the twist. 

De Bortoli Wines developed the VivaTM  screw-capped sparkling wine bottle with Guala Closures Australia and the glass manufacturer, Owens-Illinois.  The wines are coming onto the market as I write. This initial release is obviously for lower-priced fizz.  I'm sure more ornate and luxurious versions will follow.

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