Now the easy way in for tipplers in a hurry

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The Independent Online
Beaujolais nouveau tipplers in France are to test a new, self- opening cork. John Lichfield, in Paris, samples the infinitely reusable and horridly named Kwik-Kork, which arrives in Britain next year.

Have you ever been on a picnic and left the corkscrew at home? Have you ever sprained your wrist trying to open a wine bottle with a miniature corkscrew on a pen-knife? Help is on the way.

The wine house which first popularised Beaujolais nouveau will send ripples through the world of French wine production when the 1997 version arrives two weeks today. Emile Chandesais, a major Beaujolais producer, will become the first European wine house to use Kwik-Kork, a self-opening but otherwise traditional cork (it is made out of cork) invented in Canada eight years ago.

A plastic piston passes through the cork; a plastic ring on top operates the piston and opens the bottle; it can be closed again with the same device. The Michel Picard group, which owns Emile Chandesais, intends to market 600,000 bottles this year. The marketing director, Jean-Pierre Durand, said: "We want to test the reaction in France and make sure we have everything just right before we sell abroad. We plan to send the Kwik-Kork bottles to Britain next November."

Wine-bottles with built-in corkscrews have already been marketed in Australia and South Africa. Mr Durand says French producers have been reluctant to take up the invention until now, partly through traditionalism, partly through a fear that any self-opening wine would be associated in the public's mind with the kind of flip-top, low-rent table wine which has been available for years.

"A traditional cork ... is necessary to allow a wine to continue to mature in the bottle," Mr Durand said. "We are satisfied ... that bottles with Kwik- Korks behave just like ordinary bottles." Michel Picard hopes to use self-opening corks with other middle-ranking wines such as Cote du Rhone but Mr Durand does not imagine we will ever see a Kwik-Kork ring atop a bottle of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. " ... The best wines sell so much on tradition that, from a marketing point of view, it would not make sense." Mr Durand sees the benefit of the smart corks mostly in the market for good, medium-priced wines: in other words, just the kind of wine you might take on a picnic while forgetting the corkscrew.