Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wine Stoppers - The Good, the Bad, and the Fugly

Let's start with the Fugly.

While standing in the checkout line of a wine store recently I found myself fascinated by a display of wine stoppers. My curiousity was piqued by the sheer ugliness of these things, as they looked like gaudy door knobs hot glued to the ends of corks.

What amazed me more was the price - only $5.95 each. Doing some quick math I tried to figure out what their cost would be. The standard markup in the retail business is something called Keystone, which represents the doubling of the wholesale cost to establish the retail price. But given that these stoppers are made offshore, and the markups on such imports are minimum triple key to as much as 5 times wholesale, I quickly determined that the wholesale on these stoppers had to be something in the range of $1.20 to $1.50 each. At that price - even without factoring in the cost of labour - one has to seriously question what kind of quality (or lack thereof) has gone into the materials.

With that in mind I decided to take a closer look at some wine stoppers we have at home. This is where we come to the Bad.

In the photo above you can see one of these stoppers, and clearly the end that goes into the bottle has badly deteriorated over the years. Upon further research I discovered that red wine in particular (due to its acidity) causes metal plating to break down over time, thereby creating the blistering you see in the photo. One can only imagine where the dissolved material ends up - Yuck!

The revelation has inspired me to design and build a better stopper.

Next post = the Good.

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