REUTERS

An encapsulated history

Bottles of wine shouldn't be sold for more just because they've been dressed nicely

ANDREW J. LINN

Dressing up the wine, as it is known in the trade, has nothing to do with what is in the bottle, only its appearance, and the final price will be influenced by the extent of the dressing up.

It has zero practical use, and is nothing more than a marketing tool, in the same way as those overweight bottles that are so unenvironmentally friendly are becoming increasingly common and should be banned. They are used because wines in heavy bottles can be sold at higher prices than the same wine in a standard bottle.

And capsules? We deal with them by just cutting them off at the top, ripping them off completely, or putting the corkscrew through them. Sommeliers will always remove the top part. The $64,000 question is of course: are they necessary? Not in any shape or form. They add nothing outside visual value and increased costs.

Some wineries have stopped using them without any negative effects on the ageing process nor on sales.

Before the corkscrew was invented corks were left partly out to facilitate manual removal. It is often maintained that lead capsules – now banned and replaced by tin – were designed to stop rats gnawing the corks, but since cellars are ideally vermin-free, this is also history.

Another near-myth is that in the old days of bottling by hand a long wax coating would hide the different levels of wine in the bottles.

Wax capsules are pleasant and are also airtight, unlike metal, but even more costly. The bottom line is that no capsule improves the wine or its maturing ability.