Near the end of my two-week tour of New Zealand, Rippon winemaker Nick Mills led me through his new community hall and tasting room.
It’s a rammed-earth edifice with a wood-lined, vaulted ceiling. It overlooks Rippon's sloping vineyards, which extend below to the shores of the vast Lake Wanaka in Central Otago.
There in the hall, hanging on the wall, looking rather lonely and deserted, was a framed, mounted collection of corkscrews.
It looked very much like a museum piece. Many of the corkscrews were antiques. I recognized some of different shapes and styles, since my mother had collected old corkscrews for me on her trips through Europe and from garage sales and second-hand stores.
The moment I saw the corkscrew display I knew what I needed for the box of corkscrews my mom had collected. They’d been sitting on a shelf in my garage for years. Now they would have a decorative purpose.
What made Rippon's corkscrew collection stand out is that one rarely sees corkscrews in New Zealand. Most of the country's 650-plus wineries prefer twist-off closures for most of their wines. Of the 200 or so wines I tasted there on my visit, only a handful came with corks.
Once you start drinking a lot of screw-capped wines, the simplicity of twisting off a wine cap becomes readily apparent, whether you're dining in a restaurant or pouring a guest a glass. The cap snaps off in an instant.
Seeing someone use a corkscrew seemed an odd juxtaposition in New Zealand, a country that is so comfortable with twisties and so convinced they are the superior closure. New Zealand may be one of the youngest wine industries in the world, but it is light years ahead of the closure curve. Once you get used to twist-offs, as New Zealanders have, corks seem terribly passé.
Over the years I’ve tried hundreds of corkscrews, and while all of them have served their purpose—some better, some worse—none has been the perfect all-around tool. Now, with wines from some parts of the world, they aren’t even necessary, and happily so.