New Pull-Tab Wine Cork Making Inroads, Though Purists Are Unenthused

Article excerpt

TORONTO -- Uncorking a bottle of wine can be a romantic ritual -- or a pain in the neck. For those who find the corkscrew less than user-friendly, the Kwik-Kork is coming.

Invented by a Canadian, manufactured in Portugal, the Kwik-Kork hit the big time in November when a leading French producer used it in more than 600,000 bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Some purists sniff at the newfangled cork, which can be pulled out without a corkscrew. But inventor David Hojnoski says the overall reaction is positive, leading to dozens of inquiries from wine producers worldwide. Hojnoski -- pronounced hi-NOS-kee -- said one of Chile's largest wine exporters and a big California winemaker will have Kwik-Kork bottles beginning this year. He said there has been keen interest in China. In Britain, where Beaujolais Nouveau is highly popular, the Kwik- Kork received favorable news coverage and some praise in the trade magazine Packaging Week. "Given the millions of pounds invested by packaging companies in research and development, it seems amazing that nobody has designed such a contraption before," the magazine said in its Dec. 4 edition. The Kwik-Kork is produced by drilling a small hole into the center of a traditional cork and inserting a plastic sleeve. Once the cork is fitted into a bottle, a pulling device is inserted into the sleeve -- with a simple tug, the cork comes out. Hojnoski said he and his two partners initially set their sights on winning a 1.5 percent share of the 17 billion wine corks used by the industry annually. But he said they are now hoping to sell 500 million Kwik-Korks a year -- a 3 percent share. The Kwik-Kork is being pitched for use with mid-price wines, bottles costing $5 to $10 that people buy to drink at home. Jean-Pierre Durand, marketing director for the French wine producer Michel Picard, said the company decided to use Kwik-Korks as part of a drive to win over "the Coca-Cola generation" -- younger drinkers who might be attracted to easy-open wine bottles for picnics and parties. …