Vol. 2 No. 27…Screw it! No more, put a cork in it!…and why!

TB is a hopeless romantic…the bottle of wine, a candlelit dinner, presenting the bottle, extracting the cork, hearing that little ‘pop’ as it comes out of the bottle…you get the picture.

My first experiences with screw caps on wine (sic) were Thunderbird, Ripple, Boone’s Farm, Red Mountain, all with those damnable accompanying hangovers…the morning after the night before. But then TB grew up! No more screw caps…not now, not ever!

Fast forward 50 (FIFTY) years and look what we have: wine in a box! Wine in can’s! …but screw cap’s? No freakin’ way!

Remember these are no ordinary screw caps. They are technologically engineered (aka new and improved), and mandated by the problem of cork taint which impacts as many as one in ten bottles. Some say they have never had a ‘corked’ bottle, others who are super-sensitive have had several…in any event the wine smells ‘skunky’. Once you smell it, you won’t forget it.

Also, recall that most wine is drunk within 30 days of purchase, but what happens if you are a collector or merely like to age your wines…not fun to spend $100 or more on a bottle of wine and have it smell funny (TB is told that on very old bottles there is ‘bottle stink’ – an ugly phrase – but that unless it is tainted fades with the recommended decanting).

What to do about it? Re-cork it and return it to your retailer for a refund or replacement – chances are the second bottle won’t have it but it could. Again, if you have stored it for years you won’t have this option because it could be due to improper storage or other factors.

Now imagine you as a winemaker. You have done everything right; you try to get the wine to the apogee of what you want it to taste like and then you bottle it, and with expensive corks. While producers try to make the corks as consistent as possible.

Stelvin produces two caps.I was told about them by Graham Painter, the Founder and CEO of NZ Wine Navigator which is an importer (exporter to the U.S.). He said that they allow for an oxygen exchange, something I had not heard before, thus allowing the caps to breathe.

I went to the best source I know, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards. Not only is Grahm one of the luminaries of California wine and the first volume producer to use screw caps, eventually to all of his wines, both white and red!

Grahm explained to me that the producer of the caps/capsules is Stelvin. They, in turn, produce two capsules: Saranex, which is more ‘oxygen exclusionary’ and suitable for wines to be consumed relatively soon, and Saratin, which is slightly less exclusionary than a standard cork but about the same as a premium cork, and thus requires slightly less Sulfur Dioxide (which some drinkers cannot tolerate, as with herbicides or insecticides). He adds that in the barrel, oxygen exchange is approximately 1ppm per month!

Back to the winemaker: he/she decides the optimal time to bottle the wine. Changes due to oxidation are not desirable, except over long periods of time. For this reason, vintage Ports are bottled young, after just 6 months to 1 year in barrel, and that is why they shouldn’t be consumed for twenty years or more, hence the English custom of buying a ‘pipe’ when a child is born assuring that they will have some of it for the rest of their lives – how big is a pipe? It is a barrel of 550 litres!!! FIVE HUNDRED FIFTY LITRES. We Americans should be so lucky.

So, will Stelvins replace corks? Given the fact that it takes years for a cork tree to regrow its bark, and the increased demand for corks, especially premium ones, winemakers are turning to synthetics and plastics. TB’s bet is it’s the screw cap that wins out. I have opened too many bottles where the cork has deteriorated and some that were obviously ‘corked’. A skilled sommelier can open one without it appearing to be a screw cap. Time will tell…but to me, it is what is inside that counts, right?

TB ©2016

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traderbill

How did Trader Bill originate? It was conceived by me as a way of providing information summaries of global financial markets so that friends and associates could bring themselves up to speed on events and changing market conditions upon their arrival at work. In addition, it provides information on speakers and economic releases that day with consensus estimates and level of last release so that the reader is prepared to react, or knows how the market might react upon the release of information. Who is Trader Bill? Initially any reference to me was as ‘i’. This is to remove the aura of ego and to suggest that i am but a humble reporter, albeit with 35 years of investment experience. Investments are demanding of ego, however, or one would not feel that he was qualified to manage someone else’s money in the first instance. Therefore i needed an ‘alter-ego’. Like Winchell and Mahoney, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and especially Trader Vic and Mai Tai’s! Why Trader Vic? Because he was a likeable man who delivered pleasure to his customers and knew exactly what their desires were. The reason for the alter ego became obvious once I introduced Trader Bill into my commentaries: people started asking what Trader Bill thought. They had never asked me what I thought before, but suddenly they wanted to know what TB thought! Now mind you they KNEW that I was Trader Bill but for some reason he became bigger than life. Maybe it was the small ‘I’? What does Trader Bill try to do?His goal is to educate from his years of experience. Consider that most of the traders and people managing investments weren’t even around in 1987 for the crash! Consider that Graham and Dodd, and even Warren Buffet are not relevant to them, too old hat. Their historical perceptions of markets and fundamentals (earnings, price/earnings ratios, bonds, debt service coverage) are irrelevant in this fast moving world. This is the NEW ECONOMY, or is it? How did your style originate?Years ago i found that i had a knack and talent for writing. In addition, i developed an ability to analyze market news about 15 years ago. It took the Crash of ‘87. Prior to that i was just listening to what others said about the economy. But bond yields had been soaring in ‘87 yet the stock market just kept hitting new highs. That was when i began to learn about markets. i have both a dry and witty sense of humor (some call it inane!). Therefore i attempt to make even the worst news somewhat amusing: whether it is the absurdity of an economic release, or the comments of a CEO. This is trading desk humor (or gallows humor). It isn’t politically correct but it does ease tension. Ironically, it is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (in the Navy they say: it’s always darkest before it’s pitch black!), that allows you to be more objective in your analysis, as bad as a situation is there will still be a tomorrow! You will see that i practice three-dot journalism, a style made famous by San Francisco reporter Herb Caen, whom i idolized. At least to me it is effective. What is so special about your analysis?Frankly, i don’t know that it is special, but at least it beats “the market closed down today on profit taking.” What i do know is that most of what you read is spat out without considering whether or not it is rational, like the above statement. Is it right? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, and that is the key to what is different about my analysis: it is meant to make you think. Is Dan Rather right or is Trader Bill right? If it causes you to stop and think about it, regardless of whether you agree, i win! Because THAT is my goal…not to have you think i am a guru, got that? Bet you never heard that ANYWHERE before in my business! Instead they want you to think just how smart they are but remember in this business if you are right 60% of the time you ARE a genius! Another thing that is different is when i am wrong on an analysis i will tell you, not hope you forget what i said. So now you have the tools to do what the speculators and hedge funds do: challenge authority, and if you make money it is because YOU did it not me. i was just a tool, your flunky to do the grunt work and let you decide…course you could be wrong too but at least you looked at the big picture. But the goal is also to have fun! This shouldn’t be a business of hushed tones and grim faces. It is a living, breathing thing and nowhere else in the world do you have the odds as much in your favor as here. Just beware of the guy who wants to put his arm around you and tell you he is your friend. So there you have it. I hope you select me as one of your sources for market information. If you do I promise to work my best for your financial success. Trader Bill

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