Sunday, January 3, 2010

Chinese Quality vs Italian Form & Substance

On New Years Eve, I tried to use a Chinese made cork screw to open up a bottle of wine at a friend's house whose party we were attending. I'd brought a bottle of Bourgogne (Burgundy), Bordeaux (From Fresh & Easy, a St.Emillion which had turned sadly), Pinot Grigio, Cava, and a Prosecco. We went for the Maconais Bourgogne Pinot Noir first. I tried to use the "Dragon Seal" sommelier cork screw, which I got at a Chinese hotel mini-bar years ago and had never used. It failed miserably (photos attached).

Luckily, our NYE party hosts Tory & Allen had a large stationary rabbit cork puller that worked quite well. Back at home, I have The WORLDS BEST cork screw (pictured in black steel, alongside the Chinese turd). About 7 or 8 years ago - approx 1000 bottles ago - my son got me this Italian cork screw from Brookstone as a thoughtful Christmas gift, shopping with Dr Desert Flower. It's worked flawlessly, pulling cork after cork; good corks, bad corks, migrated corks that have disintegrated, artificial corks, you name it. It's sleek, stylish, heavy duty - in both form and function. My parents got me a hand held rabbit kit the year after my son got me this fine Italian work of art, and I re-gifted the rabbit to my buddy Ryan and his wife in Atlanta. They have since told me that they had to replace the screw after 50 corks. 50 corks? That's like 5 or 6 months of bottles chez nous! I'd be on my 16th or 17th screw by now!

So quality matters. And though I don't like to admit it, style matters too. The Italians, they "get it" about style. Their cars, their wine, their art, their national airline, their opera, their food, their motorcycles, even their light fixtures and plumbing fixtures in their hotels... like tiny works of art... yes, their trains don't always run on time (or run), their politicians are extremely corrupt or lecherous (or both), their banking is questionable, they have draconian laws that the Vatican loves on stem cell research & reproductive rights over your own uterus, but they GET style AND function. Form and substance.

What do the Chinese get? don't get me started. As my dear friend Gary (who is Chinese, but who also lived and worked int he US for about 3 years in Connecticut) said to me many years ago as we were driving 3 hours back from an investment casting supplier in SE China: "Centuries ago, we were at the top of the world, we invented paper, poetry, philosophy, explosives, silk, had the best warfare tactics... and now look at us after 'cultural revolution'... ugh" ...of course, that was after a 12 hour work day and a great deal of alcohol. As far as goods produced with steel? This (link here) is more typical of Chinese quality. There are many wonderful people in China, and when managed carefully and scrutinized closely, Chinese workers and companies CAN produce good quality goods. "Dragon Seal" wine, and cork screws, are not amoung that limited population of high quality - link here to Jan09's glowing review of Chinese wines. Ew!

Using my magnifying glass, I was able to discern the following tiny markings, cast into the Italian Cork Screw:

Googling this, I found exhaust pipes made by Brevettato - even Italian Exhaust pipes have style! See! And on Ebay... there's an identical cork screw for $174, roughly 9 times more than what my son paid for it! At least something we own has appreciated in value! LOL! Meanwhile, the Dragon Seal cork screw will go in the recycling bin.


  1. My Ducatis concur wholeheartedly...

  2. Wow, impressive screw bending! A corkscrew needs to work hard to be that crap.

    I prefer the waiter's corkscrew design myself, but well-done. Should be bullet-proof and last a million years.

  3. my waiter's cork screw (sommelier) was misplaced... as I typically keep it in the chilled double-wine caddy's side pocket. I THINK it's in a suit case somewhere.. grrrrr.

    The amazing Dragon Seal screw, failed upon the very first insertion - no severe torque applied, no severe tension used, no bending loads. I think the base metal used in the manufacturing was fully annealed, and missed its final heat treat where it would have gotten some degree of strength - more than play-doh qualities.

    The Brevettato will likely be adeptly pulling corks for my great grand children someday, if any of my progeny's progeny survive and they can find any bottles after the coming zombie apocalypse.


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